First off, you will never — NEVER — see the President of the United States at ANY event anywhere in the world walking arm-in-arm with anyone — other than Secret Service agents? — ahead of a crowd of tens of thousands. Putting the president at the lead of a march of that size in an open and uncontrolled space simply will not happen. Sadly, it should not happen. Far too dangerous.
In recent weeks, American media and politicians were outraged because of Secret Service security lapses. How could they let an armed ex-felon in an elevator with the president? Let someone enter the White House unauthorized? Or what about that faux sign language interpreter at the Mandela memorial in South Africa?
But beyond that, how big of a faux pas was this?
How much did Americans really care until this became an issue? Did anyone ask before the event whether the president or someone else of “high profile” would represent the United States at the rally? No. It doesn’t seem like we cared much one way or the other. Most people in this country probably didn’t know the march was taking place in the first place. Much like the Paris rally itself, this outrage is largely an organic rise of protest with American commentators and politicians of all stripes striving to be more offended than the next.
Perhaps this marks a bit of American apprehension about the country’s image in the world. We have been successful starting conflict, where are we when the world unites against terror and war? Right? Could it be a sort of shared guilt that rises in these complaints about Obama missing the Paris Rally? If we cared for the right reasons, that would be refreshing.
Many in Europe — France included — hold the United States responsible for the rise in Islamic radicalism. They feel burdened by refugees fleeing to Europe from the Mideast countries where we wage wars. One might conclude, therefore, that President Obama might not be welcomed by all.
And imagine if President Obama did go. Count on this — absolutely count on this — Barack Obama’s political enemies would have ridiculed him for it. (Don’t forget Freedom Fries.) A certain corner of America feels uncomfortable with “socialist” Europe. (Whatever that might mean.) And imagine the outrage if President Obama were marching with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas! It isn’t that outrageous to think that some would call for inquiries.
In retrospect the White House admits they missed an opportunity to join and support this rally. But I find it hard to see how this in anyway shows that the White House is weak on terrorists. Barack Obama has proven to be no less hawkish about waging the war on terror than any of his predecessors. In some regards he is more aggressive.
Generally, here in the United States, peace protesters are outliers. In a normal world criticizing an American president today for missing a peace rally would barely get a shrug. But this isn’t a normal world and the president is Barack Obama.
(P.S. Remind the rabid right that Vladimir Putin didn’t make the rally either.)