White House regrets not sending 'higher profile' officials to Paris march

by Staff, |
President Barack Obama is shown in this file photo. | (Reuters)

WASHINGTON – The Obama administration admitted Monday that it was a mistake not to send a higher-ranking White Hosue official to the Paris march for solidarity, which took place on Sunday and had over 1.6 million in attendance. French President Francois Hollande marched alongside German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after last week's terrorist attacks that left 17 dead.

Although over 40 world leaders were in attendance and a total of three-and-a-half million marched throughout France, the highest-ranking U.S. official at the event was the U.S. ambassador to France.

President Obama was unavailable, Vice President Joe Biden was at his home in Delaware, and Secretary of State John Kerry was in India for diplomatic commitments.

Attorney General Eric Holder, who was in Paris Sunday to meet with his counterparts, also did not attend the march.

French President François Hollande (center) is joined by Israel PM Benjamin Netanyahu, Mali President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, European Council President Donald Tusk, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, and King Abdullah of Jordan as they attend the solidarity march (Marche Republicaine) in the streets of Paris on Sunday, January 11. French citizens were joined by dozens of foreign leaders, among them Arab and Muslim representatives, in an unprecedented tribute to the victims of the Charlie Hebdo massacre, the killing of a police woman in Montrouge, and the hostage taking at a kosher supermarket at the Porte de Vincennes. | Reuters/Philippe Wojazer

"I think it's fair to say that we should have sent someone with a higher profile to be there," White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters, adding that security concerns for Obama to attend presented "onerous and significant" challenges.

The Obama administration's admission came after several Republicans who could be running for President in 2016 highlighted the issue.

Sen. Marco Rubio appeared on "CBS This morning" and called the incident a "mistake" on the White House's part. Sen. Ted Cruz said that Americans must "demand that our nation summon the will to stand up and lead the effort" against terrorism.

"The attack on Paris, just like previous assaults on Israel and other allies, is an attack on our shared values. And, we are stronger when we stand together, as French President François Hollande said, for 'liberty, equality, and fraternity,'" he wrote in an op-ed for Time magazine. "The absence is symbolic of the lack of American leadership on the world stage, and it is dangerous."

Earnest blamed the time frame of the march, saying the Obama administration did not know it was occurring until 36 hours beforehand. The security needed for the event could have prevented some French citizens from attending, he said.

"This was not a decision made by the President," the press secretary stated.

Kerry plans to visit France on Thursday to "reaffirm the connection between the United States and our oldest ally," he told reporters while in India.

The Paris solidarity march was organized after Islamic extremists Cherif and Said Kouachi attacked French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo Wednesday, killing eight staff members and two police officers that responded to the gunfire. Later in the week they took hostages in Dammartin-en-Goele and were gunned down by police.


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