Yesterday saw some 3.7 million people unite against terrorism in Paris and in various places around France in unity rallies. The largest of these rallies was in Paris.
French officials of the Interior Ministry said the rally’s size was “unprecedented,” more than a million people in Paris alone (the Chicago Tribune reported estimates of between 1.2 and 1.6 million).
One thing is clear: there were a lot of people (note to Republicans: this is what a real million-man march looks like):
World leaders – forty of them (French station BFM said 44) – joined the people in Paris, including French President Francois Hollande, British Prime Minister David Cameron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy. The Ukraine sent President Petro Poroshenko and Russia, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
Though French President Holland asked them not to, according to Haaretz, even Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu put aside their differences long enough to join in common purpose in a march down Boulevard Voltaire.
But not President Barack Obama. It was not a secret or a surprise, since Agence France-Presse had reported he would not be there, and even the Russian news agency, Tass, had reported he would be absent.
It is not clear why he did not attend, whether it was security concerns (critics point out other world leaders were able to get around this concern) or for some other reason. WhiteHouse.gov shows no public schedule for the president on Sunday.
Secretary of State John Kerry was in India for a trade conference, meeting with another absent world leader, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, but the White House has not explained President Obama’s absence, or that of Vice President Joe Biden. Attorney General Eric Holder was in Paris and attending security meetings as well as taping interviews for American news shows, excluding Fox News.
What is clear is that the president is taking heat on this one.
Ultimately, Ambassador Jane Hartley was the highest-ranking U.S. official present at the march.
Jake Tapper on CNN questioned his absence. But it was the right wing that has really run with the missing Obama meme.
Rep. Pete King (R-NY) called it a mistake: “If the highest-ranking official is an ambassador, I would say that’s a serious mistake. We are looking for cooperation from around the world … we should have had someone there who is instantly recognizable (so people) see …and say, ‘That’s the United States of America.'”
The always trying to be relevant Newt Gingrich expressed his outrage via Twitter:
Kate Pavlich of Fox News immediately jumped on the “Obama is not one of us” podium and tweeted:
And a few hours later:
As did Fox News’ Todd Starnes:
When he had time to think of something really clever, he came up with this a couple of hours later:
Greta van Susteren tweeted as well:
The New York Daily News ran with the headline last night:
Obama and America shamefully skip Paris march against terror: The U.S. fails to join the whole world in standing by France
Fox News reported on his absence, as did RedState, which claimed Obama “skipped” the march.
The Blaze gave us:
‘Guess Who’s Missing?’: Americans Wonder Why Obama Skipped Paris March
Ron Ungar wrote at Forbes:
Shame On President Obama For Skipping The Paris Unity Rally Against Terrorism
“President Obama’s decision not to attend yesterday’s Unity Rally in Paris in response to the terrorist horrors of this past week – a rally attended by 40 world leaders including such polar opposites as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas – may register as his most disturbing, and profoundly harmful, public relations mishap to date.”
Even MSNBC had to admit,
No senior White House official at Paris Unity rally
And of course, just this morning, World Net Daily joined the crowd with:
YOUR GOVERNMENT AT WORK: OBAMA A NO-SHOW AT PARIS UNITY RALLY
CNN reports that on Sunday night,
[A] White House official who asked not to be named added: “It is worth noting that the security requirements for both the President and (Vice President) can be distracting from events like this – for once this event is not about us!”
Speaking from India, Secretary of State Kerry defended Obama’s actions, saying,
“The U.S. has been deeply engaged with the people of France since this incident occurred,” and adding, “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.”
It is clear, as with anything President Obama does or doesn’t do, that the right will attack. Until President Obama himself speaks on his absence or some official word comes from the White House, it is pointless to speculate – unless you are a Republican and you need another Benghazi.
Hrafnkell Haraldsson, a social liberal with leanings toward centrist politics has degrees in history and philosophy. His interests include, besides history and philosophy, human rights issues, freedom of choice, religion, and the precarious dichotomy of freedom of speech and intolerance. He brings a slightly different perspective to his writing, being that he is neither a follower of an Abrahamic faith nor an atheist but a polytheist, a modern-day Heathen who follows the customs and traditions of his Norse ancestors. He maintains his own blog, A Heathen’s Day, which deals with Heathen and Pagan matters, and Mos Maiorum Foundation www.mosmaiorum.org, dedicated to ethnic religion. He has also contributed to NewsJunkiePost, GodsOwnParty and Pagan+Politics.
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