President Obama was AWOL at the historic Paris march in support of the victims of last week’s terrorist attacks, and headlines are saying he “let the world down.” However, French President Francois Hollande says his American counterpart has been “very present” behind the scenes.
But does this justify the absence of any top level administration officials from attending the unity rally in Paris? Even though Attorney General Eric Holder was in Paris attending a terrorist summit, he did not attend the demonstrations, in which almost four million people nationwide and around one million in Paris came out to stand with the victims of the Charlie Hebdo and Kosher attacks.
The fact that the leader of the free world was not present at the Paris march is raising eyebrows around the globe, and many question the decision not to attend. This is not the first time Obama has encountered problems with his decisions regarding important matters at home and abroad.
Most notably, the President went back to a golfing game following the first YouTube video showing the beheading of American journalist James Foley in August. Obama was on vacation at the time, and made a brief remark condemning the brutal murder, but moments later went back to a golf outing with a celebrity.
Obama’s absence was accentuated by those who were present at the Paris march, which included German Chancellor Angela Merkel, British Prime Minister David Cameron, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. More than 40 world leaders came to physically stand with France during this difficult time.
Really? President Obama "let the world down" because he didn't fly to Paris for a peace march. Really? pic.twitter.com/Eq0B96ZGFu
— Keith Boykin (@keithboykin) January 12, 2015
The U.S. was represented at the march by the Ambassador to Paris, Jane Hartley, and the administration didn’t immediately explain why Secretary of State John Kerry — who was in India at the time — or Vice President Joe Biden were not sent to represent the leader of the free world. However, later on, a statement issued by a senior Obama official suggested the reason for the absence was security concerns for Obama and Biden, which may have been too distracting, according to a report in the New York Daily News.
“It will have a chilling effect that America did not show up (at the Paris rally),” filmmaker Leo Herrera, 33, said in Brooklyn on Sunday. “This goes into the heart of what free speech is, so we should have a really visible reaction. I don’t think Obama sent any message, and that’s the problem.”
Kerry dismissed the criticism, saying that America had more than one representative at the Paris march. According to the White House website, Obama had nothing on his public schedule for Sunday.
“This is sort of quibbling a little bit in the sense that our assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland was there and marched, our ambassador was there and marched, many people from the embassy were there and marched.”
Speaking to CNN, a representative for French President François Hollande also defended Obama, saying the President has been “very present” since the Charlie Hebdo and Kosher attacks took place. Obama visited the French Embassy and signed the condolence book and was one of the first world leaders to call Hollande on Wednesday.
“For us it was an emotional moment of solidarity,” the official said.
What do you think of the fact that Obama was AWOL for the Paris march on Sunday?
[Image via Globedia, Twitter]