Monday, January 12, 2015
White House admits they were wrong on Paris unity rally
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest acknowledged on Monday that the Obama administration made a mistake by not sending a high-profile representative to the Paris unity rally against terrorism this past weekend.
"What was on the television screens that people across this country, and I think even across the globe, was a remarkable display of unity by the French people in the face of these terrible terror attacks. And the way that country has come together, I do think struck a chord and inspired people all across the world and throughout this country.
“It was a remarkable display. there were also a number of other world leaders who were there to participate and show support as well.”
“And some have asked whether or not the United States should have sent someone with a higher profile than the Ambassador to France, and I think it’s fair to say we should have sent someone with a higher profile to be there.
“That said, there’s no doubt that the American people and this administration stand four-square behind our allies in France as they face down this threat.
“Had the circumstances been a little bit different, I think the President himself would have liked to have had the opportunity to be there. The fact is, this is obviously a march that the planning for which only began on Friday night, and 36 hours later it had begun.
“What’s also clear is that the security requirements around a presidential level visit or vice presidential level visit are significant. And I think in a situation like this, they typically have a pretty significant impact on the other citizens who are trying to participate in a large public event like this, but the fact of the matter is, there were not just thousands of people at the event, there are millions. It wasn’t just an arena that needed to be secured but a large outdoor area that poses significant security challenges.
“I’m confident that the professionals at the Secret Service could overcome those challenges, but it would have been very difficult to do so without significantly impacting the ability of common citizens to participate in the march," Earnest said.
Earnest did not have any answers as to what President Obama was doing during the unity rally or as to why Attorney General Eric Holder did not attend as a representative of the administration. Holder was in Paris at the time of the event.
When asked if criticism of the Obama administration's failure to attend the Paris unity rally was fair, Earnest said, "certainly a free country and people have the opportunity to subject their elected officials to criticism and make it clear when they disagree with an action taken by the administration."
"Especially at a time of such great pain, people will take cues from something like that.
"You recall what it felt like after 9/11 to have all these nations around the world rally to our side and take up our cause after we suffered so greatly. The French are going through a similar trauma," U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) said in criticism of the administration.
Secretary of State John Kerry confirmed that he will travel to France later this week and called criticism of the administration "quibbling."
"I don't think the people of France have any doubt about America's understanding of what happened, about our personal sense of loss, and our deep commitment to the people of France in this moment of trial.
"This is sort of quibbling a little bit in the sense that our assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland was there and marched, our ambassador was there and marched, many people from the embassy were there and marched," Kerry said.