A Republican US senator lambasted the White House on Monday for not sending a top American official to a Paris unity march after deadly Islamic militant attacks in that city, and a New York tabloid headline screamed “You let the world down.”
The image of Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas flanking the leaders of France, Germany and Mali dominated coverage of Sunday’s unity march and highlighted the absence of President Barack Obama or other senior US officials.
French President Francois Hollande and 44 foreign dignitaries headed more than a million people in a march called to show solidarity after Islamist militants killed 17 people in three days of attacks in the French capital last week.
The United States was represented by its ambassador to France, Jane Hartley.
A senior US administration official cited security requirements as a central reason why neither Obama nor Vice President Joe Biden made the trip, saying their security needs can be distracting from such events.
Secretary of State John Kerry, on a visit to India, rebuffed criticism for not having a top-level official at Sunday’s march as “quibbling” and said Washington has cooperated deeply with Paris on many levels since the attacks.
“We have offered, from the first moment, our intel, our law enforcement and all of our efforts, and I really think that, you know, this is sort of quibbling a little bit,” said Kerry, who planned to be in Paris on Friday.
US Attorney General Eric Holder and Homeland Security Deputy Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas were in Paris for security meetings on Sunday but did not attend the march.
The New York Daily News front page featured a photo of the packed rally along with head shots of Obama, Biden, Kerry and Holder and the admonition: “You let the world down.”
“The absence is symbolic of the lack of American leadership on the world stage, and it is dangerous,” Republican Senator Ted Cruz wrote in an opinion piece on the Time magazine website.
“Our president should have been there, because we must never hesitate to stand with our allies,” he wrote.
“I thought it was a mistake not to send someone,” another Republican senator, Marco Rubio, said on CBS “This Morning.”
Criticism of the American absence was not echoed in France, however.
“As far as the reactions of the US authorities are concerned, we have been overwhelmed and very moved by them since the beginning of the crisis,” the French Embassy in Washington said on Monday.