It was the greatest demonstration of democracy standing up to fascism since the liberation of Paris when the allies marched down the Champs Elysee in 1944.
It was a demonstration that 3. 7 million French took part in, 1 1/2 million in Paris alone, more Parisians than those who lined the streets that day in 1944. And an event at which more than 40 world leaders attended to show their resolve in standing up for free speech and human values and against terrorist attempts to stifle it. That Obama wasn't there in many ways was understandable. The rally and march was about courage. And resolve. And standing up against adversaries and standing up for something. Obama would not have fit in. Unfortunately he also didn't see fit to send any high ranking American official in his place. Maybe because he didn't get the point.
That Obama didn't attend and first had the White House issue excuses that wouldn't have held water for a 10 year old trying to explain why he was absent from school the previous day, is one more example of the shallowness and lack of conviction that has defined Obama and his presidency.
At first the White House threw out all kinds of silly excuses about how hard it is to schedule a presidential trip and its attendant security concerns. But like most lame excuses, they forgot Woody Allen's insightful line that when you tell the truth all the time you never have to remember anything. What the White House didn't remember was that less than two weeks ago while still on his vacation in Hawaii, Obama decided to make an impromptu Christmas visit to the troops in Afghanistan. Afghanistan. It wasn't too hard to arrange the security and logistics for a last minute presidential trip to a war zone but it was too dangerous or complicated to go to Paris. Even when he had three days notice.
Democratic Rep Adama Schiff's hollow attempts at trying to makes excuses for Obama's no show or not sending anyone with rank to the unity march just added to the embarrassment for both Obama and the Democrats.
But aside from an American presence being conspicuous by its absence, it was clear that one minute of watching the demontrations in Paris packed more emotion and commitment to human freedom and instilled more inspiration than every word of Obama's empty rhetoric over the last 6 years. And he probably knew it. So maybe that was the reason too.
Or maybe it was because Obama remembered that in 2012 when Charlie Hebdo was fire bombed by jidhadists for its cartoon depictions related to radical Islam Obama said at the time that it was the magazine that had showed "bad judgement" in publishing the cartoons in the first place. Which was a little like blaming the rape victim for wearing a skirt that was too short. That might have made him feel out of place too.
Maybe Obama didn't want to expose himself to the fact that it was his own bad judgement in calling Isis the "junior varsity" and his rejection of the advice of his former secretary of state and three secretaries of defense to arm the moderate Syrian rebels 3 years ago which has not only seen the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of Syrian civilians, but saw the rise of Isis and may have even played a part in the killings at Charlie Hebdo since the two terrorists had gone to Syria, were trained in Syria and then returned to France that he wanted to avoid. It would have been hard under the circumstances not to have brought that up.
And let's not forget this is the president who, when Iranian citizens took to the streets in the hundreds of thousands to protest a rigged presidential election and demand democracy with many being beaten, shot and even killed, Obama's public repsonse was that he " didn't want to meddle " in Iran's affairs. So you can't blame Obama if he would have felt out of place at the Paris pro democracy rally. And then there was the "red line" Obama drew threatening retribution against Assad if he used chemical weapons against civilians , then after Assad used them killing more than a thousand including 300 children, Obama backed down proving his threat was hollow.
But even without Obama's presence, the public criticism of Obama not deeming it important enough to have a high ranking American at the rally started almost immediately. Even David Gergen on CNN said he was mystified that Obama didn't show or at least send Biden or Kerry. Jake Tapper said he was "embarrassed as an American" by no American presence.
In response,the White House went into damage control the next day as criticism began to pile up from all quarters and finally admitted that they made a mistake. Mostly because they knew they couldn't defend it. But adding to " the dog ate my homework" absurdity of their admission, was also the way it was reported.
Jim Acosta, the White House correspondent for CNN said, " something truly amazing happened today at the White House". Wolf Blitzer chimed in, " it was unprecedented". So what was so truly amazing and unprecedented? Reported Acosta, " The White House today admitted it made a mistake". Not exactly a Charlie Hebdo kind of response.
Which could lead the French and others around the world who took a stand that day in Paris and elsewhere for liberty, freedom, freedom of expression,and courage,and who expressed their solidarity by holding up signs that read " Je suis Charlie Hebdo",( "I am Charlie Hebdo") to one day hold up another sign that expresses those same ideals:
"Je suis no Obama."