The White House said on Monday that it was a mistake not to send President Barack Obama or another high-profile representative to a massive anti-terror rally in France the day before.
“I think it’s fair to say that we should have sent someone of a higher profile to be there,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said at his regular media briefing.
Obama was widely criticised for not attending Sunday’s rally, which condemned last Wednesday’s jihadist attack against the Paris headquarters of Charlie Hebdo, a satirical magazine. Twelve people were killed in the initial attack including police officers and several of the magazine’s staffers.
Many other prominent world leaders attended the march, including British Prime Minister David Cameron, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Jordanian King Abdullah II, and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
Some have suggested that, if Obama could not be there, he should have at least sent his vice president, secretary of state, or attorney general. The front page of Monday’s New York Daily News declared that Obama and other senior officials “let the world down” by skipping the rally. Attorney General Eric Holder was in Paris at the time for meetings, but he did not attend the march.
Earnest also argued that logistical and security concerns also presented “challenges” for Obama to attend.
“Had the circumstances been a little bit different, I think the president himself would have liked to have had the opportunity to be there,” he said. “The planning for which only began on Friday night, and 36 hours later it had begun. What’s also clear is that the security requirements around a presidential-level visit — or even a vice presidential-level visit — are onerous and significant.”
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