It was a Sunday in Paris. After a heartbreaking week where more than a dozen of its citizens were murdered by Islamic extremists, nearly 4 million people gathered in the City of Lights to stand together and say they would not be afraid. They would stand up together against those who would try to silence and intimidate them.
Joining them in their march was one of the most unique assemblies on the planet. According to CNN, “British Prime Minister David Cameron, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov were among those who attended, along with religious leaders.”
Think about that for a second. Some of the world’s most powerful and recognized leaders scrapped whatever their schedules were, dropped what they were doing and went to Paris to show their support for a country that has truly been shaken by the barbarous acts of last week. That unique assembly of leaders linked their arms and walked together to tell the world that they stood by France and one another against the forces of hate and destruction. It was one of the most photographic moments the world has seen in a decade.
Absent from that photograph and that truly world moment was a recognizable face from the United States. For reasons I don’t understand, President Obama was not there.
Neither was his Secretary of State, John Kerry – a Francophile, if there ever was one at Foggy Bottom. Again according to CNN, Kerry was “attending an entrepreneurship summit with new Prime Minister Narendra Modi – with whom the United States is hoping to develop much closer trade ties.”
Outgoing Attorney General Eric Holder (and a close personal friend of the President) was in Paris attending some security meetings. Somehow his schedule allowed him to join a number of the Sunday morning shows to talk about the Paris attacks and other issues of the day, but he couldn’t find the time to join the arm-linking march.
Was this a photo-op? Without hesitation, it is easy to say, “Yes it was.”
Will that photographic moment change how terrorists and the rest of the world feel about us? Without hesitation, I can say, “No it won’t.”
But here’s the point. The world came together, and we weren’t there. Think about that. The leadership of the world’s leading superpower was missing in action. Everyone else in the world’s leadership could drop what they were doing to be in Paris to show their face, link arms with their allies (as well as adversaries) and publicly declare, “we are together.”
Somehow the Obama Administration could not be bothered.
While the Administration has certainly professed its concerns and condolences through the media, diplomatic channels and in intelligence agencies, there is such a thing as “being there,” and on a Sunday as the world watched, we were not there.
We’re told by a couple of news outlets that the U.S. Ambassador to France, Jane Hartley, was at the rally. It’s great her schedule could permit her to attend, but no one short of the diplomatic community and the other campaign bundlers of the Obama Administration know who Jane Hartley is or what she looks like.
A photo of a Sunday in Paris will forever record who was there and who publicly professed that “we are together.”
What that same photo will forever record is America and its apparently too busy President and foreign policy leadership was missing in action.