Monday, January 12, 2015

Where was Obama ? And Canada's Harper ?

French President Francois Hollande is joined by world leaders in Paris during the unity march.

Not pictured: US President Barack Obama
On Sunday, as over a million marchers took to the Paris streets and 44 heads of state joined arms on Boulevard Voltaire, there was one notable absence. At least, the absence was noted by many of Barack Obama's critics, who slammed the US president for failing to attend the French unity demonstrations following the attack on the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.
CNN's Jack Tapper said he was "ashamed" that Mr Obama, Vice-President Joe Biden or any other "high-level" US official failed to stand alongside leaders from the UK, Israel, the Palestinian authority, Germany, Jordan and others. He also cites leading Republicans for failing to take the opportunity to visibly demonstrate their support and wonders why. "I hope it's not American arrogance, a belief that everyone should express shock when something bad happens to us but that our presence at an international rally is worth less than a ticket to a Green Bay Packers game when the victims speak in accents we don't understand," he writes.
In a Monday afternoon press conference, White House spokesperson Josh Earnest said Mr Obama wished he could have attended, but the "onerous and significant" security preparations for a presidential visit require more than the 36-hour advance notice the White House received.  He added, however: "It's fair to say that we should have sent someone with a higher profile."
Mr Kerry, who is in India to meet with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, said: "The US has been deeply engaged with the people of France since this incident occurred", adding that he will travel to Paris later this week.
Politico's Edward-Isaac Devore isn't so sure about the security excuse, however. "As a general rule, the Secret Service doesn't let either Obama or Biden be in the open air in areas that haven't had a full security sweep, and the White House tends to be mindful of having security precautions create distractions around events," he writes. "But a forceful president could dismiss such concerns to make a public point about terrorism."

Crowds gather in Paris for unity demonstrations on 11 January, 2015. 
The highest-level US representative at the French unity march on Sunday was Ambassador to France Jane Hartley
 View image on Twitter

Embedded image permalink

The world politicians didn't really lead the marchers through difficult-to-protect portions of Paris so much as join arms in a "photo op on an empty, guarded street". According to Gateway Pundit's Jim Hoft, it's all just a question of priorities.
"The Obama administration sent three representatives to Michael Brown's funeral in Ferguson, Missouri," he writes. "But only the ambassador to France made the historic anti-terror march in Paris today."
The New York Daily News editorialized against the president, printing "You let the world down" on the front page of its Monday edition. "This was a day to show up and to stand up, for the kind of march about freedom and courage and principles that this country has always done better than anyone," Daily News columnist Mike Lupico writes. "This is what the best and most noble of our marches on Washington must have looked like to the rest of the world."
Lupico concludes by pointing out that the US has a "complicated" relationship with France." It was likely an oblique reference to the animosity that boiled over in US politics and the press as a result of French intransigence in the run-up to Iraq War in 2003. Many of the same conservative critics who today are blasting Mr Obama for failing to express solidarity with the French were cracking jokes about French cowardice.
Twelve years is an eternity in politics, of course, and now the Obama administration is left facing a chorus of criticism - and not just from the usual voice on the right.
"I have been a fairly consistent supporter of President Obama's policies," writes Rick Ungar for Forbes. "However, President Obama's unwillingness to attend the Paris march is a personal failing on his part that I believe does damage to the pride and soul of the nation he leads."
It would have been nice to see the country whose birth was midwifed by France send its leader to stand with France Sunday. While the White House's intentions may be good, this administration can be short sighted when it comes to doing the small things that can make a big difference in maintaining relationships and showing respect. Avoiding this kind of faux pas is pretty much what diplomacy is all about.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper of Canada is also on the diplomatic hot seat . He did not march with the 1.6 million French people and numerous world leaders. It was not well done of him. France is a close ally and we owe them a show of  loyalty and solidarity. Mr Harper can be a bit of a cold fish when it comes to humanitarian causes.... or any causes. He is no diplomat.  Harper sent Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney to represent Canada at the unity rally in Paris. Michel Robitaille, Quebec's delegate-general in the French capital attended on behalf of the province. These people are small fish in the scheme of things.
Although Prime Minister Harper spoke with Hollande to offer Canada's condolences on the brutal attacks and said that Canada stands with our ally and friend, France, as it mourns; he owed it to the French people to put in an appearance to prove it. Half the people in Canada have French heritage. French people settled this country.
Obama was right when he called Harper a large lump, in an aside to his press aide at a Washington event. Harper is a lump who won't move his ass to show unity and support to friends and allies.


No comments:

Post a Comment

Through this ever open gate
None come too early
None too late
Thanks for dropping in ... the PICs