January 12, 2015 On Sunday, more than 40 world leaders joined millions of people in marches across France in a show of solidarity after a week of deadly terrorist attacks. President Obama wasn't there—and the White House now says someone from Washington should have been.
"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," White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters on Monday.
The top U.S. representative in attendance at Sunday's antiterrorism marches was U.S. Ambassador to France Jane Hartley. The marches came after a series of deadly shootings by Islamic extremists in and near Paris that killed 17 people last week.
Earnest cited timing and security concerns for the president's absence. "Had the circumstances been a little different, I think the president himself would have liked to have had the opportunity to be there," he said. "The fact is that 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 visitor or even a vice-president-level visitor are onerous and significant."
Obama's absence at the rallies, which included at least 3.7 million people, came as a surprise. Many other world leaders—all of whom require heightened security, too—were there,including British Prime Minister David Cameron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Even Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, two leaders unlikely to be seen anywhere at the same time, attended. Russia sent someone from Moscow, too.