Obama’s Absence from Paris Signals Both Weakness and Arrogance

AP Photo/Claude Paris
AP Photo/Claude Paris

“We are Charlie!” the leaders of the civilized world declared in Paris on Sunday. “I am off the clock,” muttered Barack Obama.

Yes, the so-called “leader of the free world” once again made an absolute mockery of that title, blowing off the enormous rally against terrorism in Paris.  Do not doubt for one moment that his desire to kick back and enjoy a Sunday off was a significant factor in Obama’s decision — this president has never been shy about exploiting the perks of his office — but it’s not the only reason.  He could have sent the vice president or secretary of state in his place.  (John Kerry was already scheduled for a gig in India, where he gave a speech about “global warming” — something this Administration has explicitly described as a higher priority than battling terrorism.)

Obama ended up sending Attorney General Eric Holder to Paris… a lower-level official on his way out the door, after a tenure distinguished by his willingness to use the power of government to intimidate journalists, maximize racial strife for political gain, and evade accountability for his actions to the degree that he was censured by Congress.  Tasty pick, Mr. President!  What a lovely message using Eric Holder as your half-hearted proxy sends to the free world!

Holder didn’t even bother attending the rally — he just taped TV interviews from studios in Paris.  He could have stayed in Washington with a green-screen image of the Eiffel Tower projected behind him and few would have noticed the difference.

For the first time since Holder and Obama got caught actively spying on them, the American mainstream media seems a bit angry with their beloved Super-President.  Oh, don’t worry, they’ll get over it soon enough, and few of them are matching CNN’s Jake Tapper by declaring themselves “ashamed” of Obama’s performance, but you can tell this weekend’s dereliction of duty got to them.  The reflexive defenses of this president from his number one constituency, the ostensibly impartial media, have been half-hearted and confused.  Obama’s fanboys and fangirls in the press seem uniquely aware that everything they can think of to cover his posterior sounds absurd, so the excuses are mumbled through numb lips, followed by enthusiastic efforts to change the subject.

“Obama didn’t want to inconvenience Parisians or saddle American taxpayers with the expense of a trip!” is the funniest one.  This is the president who forces other people to move their weddings because he wants to play golf.  He routinely shuts down cities by rolling gigantic motorcades through them en route to silly photo ops or fundraisers.  He drags a huge entourage to Hawaii for his vacations, instead of using Camp David, as his predecessors generally did.  He’s never been the least bit shy about saddling the American taxpayer with a gigantic bill for anything he wanted to do.

The absurdly large imperial retinue he travels with — a subject of much derision in international circles — could have been toned down for a quick trip to stand with quiet dignity as America’s representative in Paris.  He didn’t need to haul 4,000 people overseas and blow two million bucks booking out three luxury hotels to accomodate them, as he did when attending the G-20 summit in Brisbane, Australia.

As the White House slowly realizes it made a huge mistake by blowing off the Paris rally, the new excuse proffered by Obama’s spin team — the only part of his Administration that works with any great degree of efficiency! — is that the president didn’t want to burden the French with the security problems posed by his august presence.  This is almost as funny as “he didn’t want to sock his taxpayers with the bill.”  All of the other A-list leaders of the free world were in attendance, including Benjamin Netanyahu, the terrorist-slaying Prime Minister of Israel.  France’s President Hollande quietly asked Netanyahu not to attend, ostensibly because he didn’t want the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to upstage France’s unity rally.  Netanyahu originally agreed, but changed his mind on Saturday night and came anyway, triggering a reciprocal invitation to Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas.  Not only did Netanyahu join the march through Paris and speak at the Grand Synagogue, but he made a trip to the kosher grocery store where four Jews were murdered by Islamist thug Amedy Coulibaly.

But somehow there was no way to arrange adequate security for Obama?  This is nothing less than arrogance in defense of negligence.  Somehow Obama’s excuse for why he didn’t attend the rally makes him seem more important than all fifty of the world leaders who did, combined.  As if Islamist fanatics weren’t already motivated to try something hideous at a gigantic rally designed to unite the world against them!  No, if Obama were to attend, that might really push them over the edge!

If that were true, wouldn’t it mean the terrorists are winning?  If the official White House excuse is going to be that Obama stayed home and watched football because his security in Paris could not be guaranteed, isn’t that a concession to a new reality in which terrorist thugs are able to intimidate the president of the United States out of attending a massive rally intended to demonstrate that the civilized world is not afraid of them?  Way to undercut the message of the leaders who did show up in Paris, Mr. Obama!

I’ve even heard mumbling that Obama couldn’t go to Paris because he was too busy preparing his State of the Union Address.  Please, liberals, just stop.  You’re embarrassing yourselves.

I think Joel Pollak perfectly captures the most important political reason Obama blew off Paris: he didn’t want to stir up trouble with the anti-police demonstrators whose favor he is eager to curry, but not eager enough to make personal appearances in support of their movement.  Whatever applause Obama might have gotten for making a strong appearance at the Grand Synagogue would not have been worth the trouble he’d get from the “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot!” crowd.

Also, Barack Obama is not interested in appearing at events where he’s just one of many, a face lost in the crowd, forced to share the stage with others who might deliver better speeches.  He was willing to make the pilgrimage to Nelson Mandela’s funeral in South Africa because liberal piety absolutely demanded it, and because Obama’s political technicians were able to leverage the event for his personal gain — remember how he commemorated Mandela’s life with a photo of himself?  There was no way he could selfie the Parisian rally into becoming the latest episode of The Barack Obama Show.

And remember, Obama is famed for declaring, “The future must not belong to those who would slander the prophet of Islam.”  This rally was a loud and proud rejection of that insipid speech Obama gave at the United Nations, back when he was trying to blame the murder of Ambassador Chris Stevens on a YouTube video.  To put the best possible spin on things, Obama believes he took steps toward reducing violence by calling for self-imposed restrictions on free speech offensive to deeply-held religious beliefs.  The spirit of defiance surrounding Charlie Hebdo, the desire to honor its slain writers as heroes, is strongly antithetical to Obama’s post-Benghazi position.  In fact, at the time, the Obama White House condemned Charlie Hebdo, calling their work “deeply offensive to many” with the “potential to be inflammatory.”  It would be a bit awkward for Obama to grace a rally in their honor with his presence and say that, upon reflection, the future should belong to those who are free to slander the prophet of Islam, wouldn’t it?


Please let us know if you're having issues with commenting.