Barack Obama is apparently not Charlie, and everyone’s angry about it.
On Sunday, world leaders from 44 nations joined millions of citizens in Paris to honor the victims of last week’s terrorist attack on the French magazine Charlie Hebdo. It was the city’s largest march since the fall of Nazi Germany in 1944. But one key head of state was conspicuously absent: the president of the United States.
Also absent were Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of State John Kerry, and outgoing Attorney General Eric Holder, who was actually in Paris for a meeting this weekend but still failed attend the massive rally. The U.S. Ambassador to France, Jane Hartley, did join the march, but that wasn’t enough to stave off a wave of anger directed at the Obama administration.
The Paris rally follows a deadly week for France in which Islamist terrorists killed 17 people.
On Tuesday, gunmen attacked the Paris headquarters of Charlie Hebdo, a left-wing satirical weekly magazine known for its provocative satire, including mocking depictions of the Muslim prophet Muhammad. Twelve people died in the massacre, including five cartoonists, a Hebdo journalist, and two police officers, one of whom was Muslim. French police raided a printing factory on Friday and killed two of the Hebdo gunmen.
On Thursday, a gunman shot two more people in Paris, killing a police officer. On Friday, as police prepared to raid the printing factory, extremists took hostages at a Jewish supermarket in Paris. Police conducted a separate raid there in coordination with the factory assault, but four of the supermarket hostages were killed in the standoff.
The week of tragedies brought an estimated 2 million people and dozens of leading politicians to the streets on Sunday. U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and some 40 politicians marched through Paris as citizens held signs reading “Je Suis Charlie.”
It was this show of international unity that made the absence of top Obama administration officials so noticeable—and rage-inducing.
Conservatives jumped on the Obama misstep, as they are wont to do:
This is really embarrassing – WHERE IS PRESIDENT OBAMA? Why didn't he go? pic.twitter.com/pp7wsmiLOM— Greta Van Susteren (@greta) January 11, 2015
Sad that 50 world leaders could show solidarity in Paris but President Obama refused to participate. The cowardice continues.— Newt Gingrich (@newtgingrich) January 11, 2015
These pundits’ anger predictably catalyzed widespread conservative cynicism, with the impossibly long hashtag #ReasonsObamaMissedFranceRally tapping into the top three U.S. Twitter trends.
Secretary Kerry, who was at a meeting in India on Sunday, called the criticism “quibbling a little bit,” but he also said that he planned to meet with French officials later this week.
“That is why I am going there on the way home and to make it crystal clear how passionately we feel about the events that have taken place there,” Kerry said, according to the NY Daily News. “I don’t think he people of France have any doubt about America’s understanding about what happened, about our personal sense of loss and our deep commitment to the people of France in this moment of trial.”
Photo via White House/Flickr (Public domain)