3 Reasons Obama Did Not Attend Paris Solidarity Rally
While President Barack Obama was criticized for not attending Sunday's solidarity rally in Paris in support of a satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo, that was attacked by Islamic terrorists, the White House has cited three reasons Obama's attendance was unworkable.
The rally came together in a short period of time. The White House only learned of the event on Friday night. Presidential appearances at public events in modern times require planning, and more than the short notice the White House was provided.
Even though security was tight due to the many world leaders at the rally, the president of the United States has more stringent security requirements. Obama's security needs were an "onerous and significant" reason he could not attend the event, Press Secretary Josh Earnest explained.
Speaking of both the timing and security issues, Earnest added, "We're talking about a march that came together in about 36 hours, and a march that took place outdoors."
3. He Would Have Been a Distraction
If Obama would have gone, his security needs and the fact that he would have been the most high-profile figure at the event would have been a distraction, an unnamed White House source told CNN.
"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!" he said.
Some media figures and Republicans criticized Obama for not attending the event.
NBC News' Andrea Mitchell said the decision to not attend came "after a noticeable absence of really strong reaction after those horrors in France last week" and, citing a senior official, the decision "seemed ham handed."
In an op-ed, CNN's Jake Tapper wrote, "I say this as an American — not as a journalist, not as a representative of CNN — but as an American: I was ashamed [Obama was not at the rally]. ... There was higher-level Obama administration representation on this season's episodes of "The Good Wife" on CBS."
CNN's Fareed Zakaria called the White House's explanation "pathetic." It is "possible," he added, that Obama could not attend due to the timing and security concerns, but a high level official should have attended.
"I thought this is why God invented vice presidents," Zakaria said.
At a Monday press conference, Earnest agreed. "I think it's fair to say that we should have sent someone with a higher profile," he said.
The highest level official at the event was the U.S. ambassador to France, Jane Hartley. Vice President Joe Biden was at his home in Delaware that day and had no public events scheduled. Secretary of State John Kerry was at an event in India. Attorney General Eric Holder was in Paris at the time, but did not attend.
Republican Florida Sen. Marco Rubio agreed with the timing and security concerns and that Obama's appearance would have been disruptive, while also arguing that a higher profile official should have represented the United States at the event.
"I understand that when the president travels, he brings with him a security and communications package which is intense. And I understand you drop that into the middle of something like this, it could be disruptive. There's a plethora of people they could have sent. I think, in hindsight, I hope that they would have done it differently," he said on "CBS This Morning."
Republican Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, on the other hand, argued that Obama should have been there. In an op-ed for Time, Cruz argued that his absence was "symbolic of the lack of American leadership on the world stage, and it is dangerous."
"Our President should have been there, because we must never hesitate to stand with our allies," he added.