Tonight in Paris, up to three million people marched to support freedom of speech and to defy Islamic terrorism. They were led by more than 40 heads of state–along with France’s President Francois Hollande, Chancellor Angela Merkel, Prime Minister David Cameron, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and dozens more. But no high-ranking American official attended. Barack Obama did not join his fellow leaders. Nor did he send Joe Biden, John Kerry–whose purported ability to speak French might finally have come in handy–or even Eric Holder, who was in Paris but apparently had more important commitments. The United States was represented only by its ambassador to France, an Obama campaign bundler named Jane Hartley.
Many are criticizing Obama for failing to participate in the Paris march. The New York Daily News, a Democratic newspaper, criticized Obama as a no-show, and columnist Mike Lupica wrote that “America betrays its values by not sending top U.S. officials to Paris unity rally.”
Are these criticisms fair? It would be helpful to know why Obama neither went to Paris nor sent a high-level surrogate. The administration has suggested that had Obama attended, security requirements might have been onerous. But Hollande, Merkel, Cameron and Netanyahu were already there; are their security requirements any less? Or what about Joe Biden or John Kerry? Is it conceivable that they require more security than Netanyahu?
Was Obama simply too busy to go to Paris? Possibly, but his schedule for today shows zero events. His schedule yesterday was similarly blank. Nor, according to the White House web site, does he have anything scheduled for tomorrow.
As so often happens with President Obama, we are left to wonder what he could possibly be thinking. Does he simply not care? Did he slip away from the White House for a few days to golf in a warmer climate? Or does he not want to be seen as strongly opposed to Islamic terrorism? Could his absence from Paris be part of his effort–seemingly delusional–to build some sort of detente, or even alliance, with Iran’s mullahs?
Once again, we are left scratching our heads. All we know for sure is, that at the biggest pro-freedom rally since the fall of the Berlin Wall, America was absent.
UPDATE from Steve: Here he is!
MORE: Roger Simon explores the same question–why didn’t Obama go?–and comes to a similar conclusion.