President Obama should have been in Paris. More than 1.5 million people, including more than 40 presidents and prime ministers, showed up to march in defiance of terror and to show unity in the face of fear. It was noticeable then that the purported leader of the free world could not take time to rally on behalf of freedom.
It was a mistake. More importantly, it was a missed opportunity. CNN’s chief Washington correspondent, who was at the rally, described it as “like nothing I’ve ever seen or covered.” There were Muslims standing beside Christians; Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority marching alongside Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel; and the king of Jordan—a direct descendant of the Prophet Mohammed—standing up in support of the right to mock Islam.
The attack and subsequent march may have been the unifying moment that 9/11 should have been. It could be the start of a true international effort to defeat radicalism. But our president wasn’t there, our vice president wasn’t there, our secretary of state wasn’t there, nor was our attorney general.
“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 admitted on Monday.
Nevertheless, this seems to be a case of the White House’s tin ear rather than their stone hearts.
It’s one thing to not be able to work out the logistics of having the president attend an open-air rally with less than two days notice. Undoubtedly, that is a difficult feat to pull off and may have been disruptive to the vibrant spirit of the day.
It’s another to not grasp the importance of the march, even if the White House had to send a delegate for the president. As POLITICO reported: “White House aides were so caught off guard by the march’s massive size and attention they hadn’t even asked President Barack Obama if he wanted to go.”
But it’s another thing entirely to be so spectacularly bad at diplomacy that the administration fails to grasp the inevitable blowback of Vice President Biden eating at a French restaurant called Le Diplomate in Washington rather than say, actually going to a French restaurant while on a diplomatic trip to France? Or why not have Attorney General Eric Holder—who was already in Paris!—stop by to show some solidarity?
Nevertheless, as Ron Fournier writes for National Journal, “There are bigger things to worry about – and more important failings of the Obama administration – than the delicate feelings of the French.” And Fournier is at least partially right; after all, the tremendous military effort we expend be the world’s police force and the intelligence assets we likely deployed following the Charlie Hebdo attacks should be proof of our resolve in the face of Islamic extremism.
More troubling than Obama’s faux pas abroad is his utter disregard for bipartisan cooperation at home. Alexis Simendinger reports for RealClearPolitics:
“President Obama’s meeting Tuesday with House and Senate lawmakers at the White House is scheduled to last 90 minutes, but judging from a week of rancor, it could be a shorter session.
The midday Cabinet Room gathering, structured for business rather than a casual lunch, is supposed to kick off discussions about common goals, the president’s spokesman said Monday. . .
Since Republicans won the majority in the Senate and enlarged their numbers in the House, Obama has joked about potential bourbon summits and legislative collaborations with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Tennessee and House Speaker John Boehner. Yet he is governing in 2015 using an ambitious style meant to underscore the chasms between the parties and celebrate the constitutional clout wielded by a lame duck president.”
In just the few days since the new Congress convened the president has already threatened to veto bill three bills. One—the bill to expedite approval of the Keystone XL pipeline—he threatened to veto before even seeing legislative language. Reflexively threatening to veto the first few bills passed by Congress isn’t exactly the best way to demonstrate his willingness to work with Republicans to get things done. Andif President Obama isn’t even willing to work across the aisle to get things done, did we really expect him to cross the Atlantic to work with our allies.