Brent Scowcroft Center Nonresident Senior Fellow James Joyner writes for the National Interest on President Obama’s decision to not attend the rally in Paris:
One hesitates to pile on to the criticism coming from the usual suspects about the Obama administration’s decision not to send a high-level representative to march in Paris to express solidarity in the wake of the outrageous attack on the Charlie Hebdo offices, but the White House itself now admits that it was a mistake not to send a senior official and even claims that “the president himself would have liked to have had the opportunity to be there” under different circumstances.
While failure to seize a symbolic moment hardly overshadows the substantive support the U.S. government has surely provided in helping French officials, it was nonetheless a missed opportunity. The rally was the largest in French history, attended by as many as 3.7 million people and dozens of world leaders. French president François Hollande was joined by several NATO allies, including British prime minister David Cameron, German chancellor Angela Merkel, Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy and Turkish prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu. Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov made it. So did Jordan’s King Abdullah II and Queen Rania. Even uninvited guests Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas were there. The United States was represented by erstwhile Obama bundler and current French ambassador Jane Hartley.