(This story contains opinion. You’ve been warned.)
When I saw the moving images of the dozens of world leaders marching arm-in-arm in Paris in solidarity against terrorism as I watched “Meet the Press” this weekend, I immediately scanned the images for a familiar, American face. I didn’t see one. I couldn’t believe it. I thought I’d missed something. Unfortunately, I didn’t miss anything; President Obama did.
The Obama administration missed an important opportunity to stand (quite literally) with America’s allies, and now, after bipartisan criticism of the U.S.’s pathetic showing, the administration is admitting its mistake.
Whaaaaaaat? Is a presidential administration actually owning up to an error? Yes, yes it is. As it should be.
“I think it’s fair to say that we should have sent someone with a higher profile to be there,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Monday afternoon.
The highest ranking American present at the march was the U.S. ambassador to France. Big whoop. That’s all we could round up?! When the Obama administration got wind of plans for this march, did they think 50 people would be there? COME ON. Everyone and their mother knew this was going to be a big deal. It ended up being France’s biggest-ever public demonstration, no less.
U.S. Senator Ted Cruz responded to America’s lack of presence at Sunday’s march, writing:
The absence is symbolic of the lack of American leadership on the world stage, and it is dangerous. The attack on Paris, just like previous assaults on Israel and other allies, is an attack on our shared values. And, we are stronger when we stand together, as French President François Hollande said, for ‘liberty, equality, and fraternity.'”
(Side note: Cruz’s response is well-crafted, and I encourage you to read it. Don’t be scared just ’cause “Crazy Cruz” wrote it.)
I get that perhaps just 36 hours notice would be too difficult to get President Obama safely across the pond, (Though I still think they could’ve hustled and made it happen. The president of all people has access to very, very fast planes.) but what about Vice President Biden? Or Secretary of State John Kerry (who speaks fluent French for crying out loud)?
Almost anyone would’ve been a better choice than making our U.S. ambassador to France stand there by her lonesome, and apparently there were options, according to CNN:
The United States appeared to have options to send to the march: Obama spent Sunday at the White House with no public events on his schedule. Vice President Joe Biden was at home in Delaware for the weekend, also with a blank public schedule. Outgoing Attorney General Eric Holder was already in Paris for security meetings — and even recorded interviews with several U.S. Sunday morning programs — but he didn’t attend the march.”
In Monday’s press conference Earnest also pointed out that Sunday’s march took place in a large area that would’ve needed to have been secured.
NO KIDDING, Earnest.
Again, this isn’t anything I’m sure the U.S. could’ve worked through quickly. Let’s be real – the march reportedly included FORTY-FOUR world leaders.
“Among the world leaders who did march, under heavy security, were French President Francois Hollande, British Prime Minister David Cameron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas,” FOX News reports. (The bold is The Gist’s added emphasis.)
So no, Earnest. Worrying about security isn’t a valid excuse. I’m certain every leader at the march was worried about security, and it was taken care of.
What Earnest and the rest of his co-workers and boss need to realize is that sometimes visuals DO matter (though this article disagrees with me), and Sunday’s march was without a doubt one of those times. The world needed to see its leaders, including one from the supposed strongest country in the world, unified against their common enemy – terrorism. Instead the world, terrorists included, saw our absence and embarrassing headlines likes the ones below that do anything but convey strength.
— New York Daily News (@NYDailyNews) January 12, 2015