Organizers in France estimated that upwards of 3.7 million people attended a Sunday unity rally in Paris in response to the attack on the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo. Among those marchers were a variety of world leaders, but President Barack Obama was not among them. Nor did the president send any ranking administration officials to represent the United States. Not even Attorney General Eric Holder, who was in Paris at the request of French authorities, attended the march. The United States was utterly absent from this global event.
Obama did not even bother to attend a solidarity march for Paris that was held in Washington D.C. yesterday despite the participation of American officials like the State Department’s Victoria Nuland. “Obama wasn’t far from the march in D.C. on Sunday that wended silently along six blocks from the Newseum to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial,” Politico reported. “Instead, he spent the chilly afternoon a few blocks away at the White House, with no public schedule, no outings.”
For this decision, the president is enduring a deluge of criticism from both the left and the right, as well as from the nonpartisan press. Americans in general have been humiliated by their country’s absence during this historic display of support for free expression.
“Sadly, I can’t help but view this as a painful point of national embarrassment and a failure to play our part on the world stage—and I say that as one who has never before accused President Obama of embarrassing the nation he leads,” wrote outspoken liberal columnist Rick Ungar in Forbes.
“I say this as an American — not as a journalist, not as a representative of CNN — but as an American: I was ashamed,” CNN anchor Jake Tapper wrote. He noted that it was an oversight of the first order that no prominent 2016 prospect, Republican or Democratic, chose to join the Parisian marchers either.
“You let the world down,” read the front page of the New York Daily News on Monday.
Even the often staid and demure participants on CNN’s politics panel on the morning show New Day were animated over the absence of America from this pivotal symbolic event.
“If there was ever a picture that says ‘Our policy is leading from behind,’ that’s it,” said CNN anchor John King as he showed video of a variety of world leaders locking arms while marching in solidarity with average French citizens.
“The highest U.S. official at the march yesterday over there was the U.S. ambassador over there who was a big Obama donor who got that job in part because of her contributions to President Obama,” New York Times reporter Jonathan Martin observed.
The panel closed by noting that the argument that the president’s security demands would be ill-served by attending this march is betrayed by the fact that so many other heads of state were present at this rally without apparent regard for their safety.
It was recently revealed that Secretary of State John Kerry will travel to Paris later this week, but the political dustup over this apparent snub will not subside as a result of that announcement. So many Americans are mortified over the president’s decision to ignore the demands placed on him by history that it would be surprising if his administration can continue to get away with ignoring that criticism for much longer.