Obama absent from Charlie Hebdo march in Paris: Tone-deaf, incompetent Obama administration brings shame on America

Developing

See

(1) Uwe Schmitt, “Darum fehlte Obama beim Millionenmarsch in Paris; Die ranghöchste Repräsentantin der USA beim Trauermarsch war die Botschafterin. Viele Kritiker der US-Regierung meinen, Präsident oder Vizepräsident hätten in Paris mitmarschieren müssen,” Die Welt, 12. January 2015 (22:14).

(2) Editorial, “Our flag was not there: Obama and America shamefully skip Paris march against terror
The U.S. fails to join the whole world in standing by France,” NEW YORK DAILY NEWS Sunday, January 11, 2015, 7:42 PM A A A

(3) Dan Friedman, Adam Edelman, Ginger Ann Otis, “Eric Holder, top U.S. officials no-shows at Paris unity rally; The U.S. attorney general, in Paris for a terrorism summit with French President Francois Hollande, did not join world leaders such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel, British Prime Minister David Cameron, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas for the march and rally that drew a million people days after 12 were shot at satirical paper Charlie Hebdo. Others such as Obama and Vice President Biden were also not in attendance,” New York Daily News, January 11, 2015 2:18 PM ( Updated January 12, 2015, 9:50 AM).

(4) Alain Salles et Yves-Michel Riols, Le monde défile à Paris contre la terreur djihadiste,” Le Monde, 12 Janvier 2015
(à 12h53; Mis à jour à 15h31).

There are some moments for a world leader when it is important to stand up and be counted. Such a moment occurred on Sunday in Paris.

Some 44 world leaders attended the massive demonstration of support for the Charlie Hebdo satirical newspaper in Paris, on January 11, 2014, in what was the largest demonstration in France since World War II. On January 7, its leading cartoonists and editors were gunned down at its offices in a massacre that claimed 12 lives.

This was the French equivalent of 9/11.

The number one absentee was Barack Obama.

If ever there was an occasion where the President’s presence and solidarity were needed, this was it.

Obama, sitting atop an incompetent foreign policy team in the White House which micromanages and controls every aspect of the nation’s actions and policies in the world, didn’t see the significance of going.

Or even of sending Vice President Joe Biden to Paris.

Or even of charging outgoing Attorney General Eric Holder, who was in Paris, to represent the United States in expressing its condolences and its support.

The highest U.S. official to attend the demonstration was the American ambassador to France.

To be sure, the President delivered a beautiful speech on freedom of expression at the U.N. General Assembly in 2012.

See “Words and Deeds: President Obama delivers eloquent defense of free speech and democracy at U.N. General Assembly (with text and video links),” September 29, 2012.

Obama has spoken many beautiful words on foreign policy issues. But his actions are what will be judged by historians looking at his record.

It is actions that count, not words.

And no amount of self-justifying, after-the-fact explanations can change the facts: Barack Obama was not there.

Nor was Vice-President Joe Biden.

Not did even Attorney General Eric Holder, who was in Paris, represent the administration at the demonstration.

One suspects that some kind of crude political calculation, at whatever level, was behind these decisions to effectively shun the Charlie Hebdo demonstration. Perhaps Obama and his team were afraid of offending someone.

This, after all, was the reason given by the New York Times for not reprinting the cartoons from Charlie Hebdo, despite the fact that without seeing the cartoons it is hard to understand what the whole debate over giving offense is all about. Many other leading newspapers, whether out of fear of giving offense or simply fear itself, similarly decided not to republish the cartoons.

One fact remains: Obama did not go to Paris, or send any other high level representative of his administration to represent the United States at the demonstration on Sunday.

There are two years and eight days until the next president of the United States is to be sworn in, and before there is likely to be any hope for competence in the execution of U.S. foreign policy.

It is going to be a long wait.

The Trenchant Observer

About the Author

The Observer
"The Trenchant Observer" is edited and published by The Observer, an international lawyer who has taught International Law, Human Rights, and Comparative Law at major U.S. universities, including Harvard, Brandeis, the University of Pittsburgh, and the University of Kansas. He is a former staff attorney at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the Organization of American States (IACHR), where he was in charge of Brazil, Haiti, Mexico and the United States, and also worked on complaints from and reports on other countries including Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Guatemala. As an international development expert, he has worked on Rule of Law, Human Rights, and Judicial Reform in a number of countries in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and the Russian Federation. In the private sector, The Observer has worked as an international attorney for a leading national law firm and major global companies, on joint ventures and other matters in a number of countries in Europe (including Russia and the Ukraine), throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, and in Australia, Indonesia, Vietnam, China and Japan. The Trenchant Observer blog provides an unfiltered international perspective for news and opinion on current events, in their historical context, drawing on a daily review of leading German, French, Spanish and English newspapers as well as the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and other American newspapers, and on sources in other countries relevant to issues being analyzed. The Observer speaks fluent English, French, German, Portuguese and Spanish, and also knows other languages. He holds an S.J.D. or Doctor of Juridical Science in International Law from Harvard University, and a Doctor of Law (J.D.) and a Master of the Science of Law (J.S.M.), from Stanford University. As an undergraduate, he received a Bachelor of Arts degree, also from Stanford, where he graduated “With Great Distinction” (summa cum laude) and received the James Birdsall Weter Prize for the best Senior Honors Thesis in History. In addition to having taught as a Lecturer on Law at Harvard Law School, The Observer has been a Visiting Scholar at Harvard University's Center for International Affairs (CFIA). His fellowships include a Stanford Postdoctoral Fellowship in Law and Development, the Rómulo Gallegos Fellowship in International Human Rights awarded by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and a Harvard MacArthur Fellowship in International Peace and Security. Beyond his articles in The Trenchant Observer, he is the author of two books and numerous scholarly articles on subjects of international and comparative law. Currently he is working on a manuscript drawing on the best articles that have appeared in the blog.