The Obama administration « should have sent someone with a higher profile » to Sunday’s massive anti-terrorism rally in Paris, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Monday.
That omission, however, in no way diminishes the support and help the United States has given France since the terrorist attacks of a week ago, Earnest said.
More than 3.7 million people — including 40 world leaders — participated in Sunday’s rally to express solidarity in the wake of last week’s terrorist attacks in France.
It was a « remarkable display of unity by the French people, » Earnest said.
Obama himself would have liked to have attended under different circumstances, Earnest said, but security proved to be an « onerous and significant » factor.
The infrastructure needed to protect the president might have prevented some average French people from attending the event, Earnest said.
The administration did not know about the rally until Friday, Earnest added: « We’re talking about a march that came together is about 36 hours, and a march that took place outdoors. »
Earnest declined to discuss the details of whether the administration considered sending Obama, Vice President Biden, or some other high-level official.to the march. He did acknowledge that doing so would have underscored the message that the American people stand « shoulder-to-shoulder » with their allies in France, Earnest said.
Secretary of State John Kerry, while describing the criticism as « quibbling, » told reporters he would visit Paris later this week.
The administration’s absence drew catcalls from some Republicans, including those who may be running for president.
« Our president should have been there, because we must never hesitate to stand with our allies, » wrote Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, in an op-ed column for Time magazine. « We should never hesitate to speak the truth. In Paris or anywhere else in the world. »
Kerry, who has been in India helping prepare for President Obama’s visit to that country later this month, told reporters he « would’ve personally very much wanted to have been » at the rally in Paris, but had diplomatic commitments in India.
« But that is why I am going there on the way home, to make it crystal clear how passionately we feel about the events that have taken place there, » Kerry said. He is expected to be in France on Friday.
Asked about the absence of high-ranking U.S. officials, Kerry said: « This is sort of quibbling a little bit in the sense that our assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland was there and marched, our ambassador was there and marched, many people from the embassy were there and marched. »
Kerry also noted that the United States has been providing intelligence and law enforcement help to the French since the attacks.