Summary: President Obama and his administration are receiving sharp criticism from the public at home and abroad for his keenly noted absence at the French Unity Demonstrations on Sunday.
On Sunday, an estimated 1.6 million people converged on the streets of Paris in a display of French unity following the attack on the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.The demonstrators were joined by 44 international heads of state who joined arms on Boulevard Voltaire in a powerful symbol of global unity against terrorists.
Many keenly noticed that one face was absent from the photo of these world leaders, the face belonging to the president of America – the international champion of Democracy and Freedom: Barack Obama. The president’s critics near and wide have been highly vocal in their scathing criticism of his failure to attend the French unity demonstrations following the murder of innocent civilians and the attack on Charlie Hebdo that marked 3 days of violence and bloodshed by terrorists in Paris.
While the American ambassador to France, Jane Hartley, was present at the the rally, this did not satisfy many people and was still criticised. Among the criticisms that were publicly stated were the following:
“I get that the president visited the French Embassy in Washington and that Secretary of State John Kerry spoke in French, and I certainly understand that the American commitment to security in Europe rivals no other but with all due respect, those are politicians spending money that they didn’t earn and sending troops whom they don’t know.” – Jack Tapper, CNN
“You let the world down” – The New York Daily Times
“I have been a fairly consistent supporter of President Obama’s policies, however, President Obama’s unwillingness to attend the Paris march is a personal failing on his part that I believe does damage to the pride and soul of the nation he leads.” – Rick Ungar, Forbes
“…It’s just another example of how this administration can be tone deaf when it comes to doing the small things that can make a big difference when it comes to maintaining relationships and showing respect“. – Josh Rogin, Bloomberg
“Not an excuse in universe can explain why US failed to send to Paris a more visible rep.” – Aaron David Miller, Former State Department official
“…Sent a clear message to the world: Obama just doesn’t care…morally abdicated his place as the leader of the free world.” – Doug Schoen, Fox News
According to the BBC, In response to the criticisms, White House press secretary Josh Earnest, said in a press conference on Monday, “Mr Obama wished he could have attended, but the “onerous and significant” security preparations for a presidential visit require more than the 36-hour advance notice the White House received.
He added, however: “It’s fair to say that we should have sent someone with a higher profile.””
Secretary of State John Kerry, whose absence was attributed to being in India to meet with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, defended the absence saying, “The US has been deeply engaged with the people of France since this incident occurred“. He also told news sources that multiple personnel from the American embassy in France attended the march in addition to the assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland and Attorney General Eric Holder. Fox News reports that Nuland was not in fact present but attended a rally for France in Washington. Kerry is scheduled to arrive in Paris on Thursday and said he is “going there on the way home and to make it crystal clear how passionately we feel about the events that have taken place there.”