U.S. Absence in Paris – Is There Shame to Go Around?
14 Jan 2015
CNN’s chief Washington correspondent Jake Tapper penned a blistering editorial chastising President Obama, Secretary of State Kerry, Attorney General Holder and other senior White House officials for their absence from last Sunday’s Unity rally in Paris. The White House has admitted that their lack of attendance was a mistake and apologized repeatedly, which did nothing to assuage Jake Tapper’s disappointment at our lack of participation.
Per Mr. Tapper, LeMonde referred to the attacks at Charlie Hebdo as France’s 9/11. Excerpts from his editorial follow:
The rally Sunday for unity drew 1.5 million people in Paris and more than twice that nationwide; it was like nothing I’ve ever seen or covered. Our nation’s oldest ally stood firm. A young Muslim Frenchwoman held a sign saying “Je suis Juif.” [I am Jewish].
A man and his son came over to me holding a sign saying “I disapprove of what you say but I will defend to the death your right to say it,” beseeching me to share their message with the American people. And world leaders were standing together amidst a procession that included Francois Hollande of France, Angela Merkel of Germany, David Cameron of Great Britain, Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority and Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, along with the leaders of Mali, Jordan and Turkey.
It is no small thing for the king of Jordan, a direct descendent of the Prophet Mohammed, to march in a rally prompted by the murders of people who mocked Islam as well as of innocent Jews — all of whom were killed by Islamic extremists. …
The United States, which considers itself to be the most important nation in the world, was not represented in this march — arguably one of the most important public demonstrations in Europe in the last generation — except by U.S. Ambassador Jane Hartley, who may have been a few rows back. I didn’t see her. Even Russia sent Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. …
I say this as an American — not as a journalist, not as a representative of CNN — but as an American: I was ashamed…
There was higher-level Obama administration representation on this season’s episodes of “The Good Wife” on CBS.
His reference to Senior Presidential Advisor Valerie Jarrett was scathing and spot on.
Per the Washington Post,
[White House Press Secretary Josh] Earnest declined to say who inside the White House was responsible for selecting the senior U.S. representative at the rally, though he said it was “not a decision that was made by the president.”
Who the heck makes it then?
I echo Mr. Tapper’s frustration. While he fairly acknowledged security concerns in having the President in attendance, at the least, Secretary of State Kerry should have been present. There was no excuse for Attorney General Holder not to attend as he was in Paris at the time.
Yet there, Tapper and I part ways. He seemed also to be spreading the blame around, possibly to dilute critique of our President by saying that the Republican Party leadership or prospective Democratic and Republican 2016 presidential candidates should have been in attendance. This would have compounded disrespect upon shame. No matter how good anyone’s intentions, it would have been seen as grandstanding, upstaging or embarrassing the President of the United States. The fact that optics supersede conscience in this case stinks, but that does not make it any less true.
There is no distracting from the administration’s blunder, yet displays of vicious anti-Semitism and violence were in evidence both prior and after the deadly terrorist attack at Charlie Hebdo. Thousands of Jews have fled France. Per the New York Times:
“French Jews, already feeling under siege by anti-Semitism, say the trauma of the terrorist attacks last week has left them scared, angry, unsure of their future in France and increasingly willing to consider conflict-torn Israel as a safer refuge.
“It is a war here,” said Jacqueline Cohen, owner of an art store on Rue des Rosiers in a Jewish neighborhood lined with falafel and Judaica shops where many businesses were closed Monday morning. “After what happened, we feel safer in the center of Tel Aviv than we do here in the heart of Paris.”
“In Israel, there is an Iron Dome to protect us,” she added, referring to Israel’s antimissile defense system. “Here we feel vulnerable and exposed. We are afraid to send our children to school.””
According to U.S. News and World Report:
Experts say [Europe’s 2 million] Jews have not felt this threatened since World War II, when some 6 million Jews were murdered in the Nazi Holocaust. Researchers at Tel Aviv University monitoring anti-Semitism have reported a chilling increase in attacks in Europe over the past decade, including deadly shootings in Toulouse, France, in 2012 [when a Rabbi, his two young sons and a 7 year old girl were gunned down] and Brussels last year [when a ‘gunman opens fire at the Jewish museum in the Belgian capital Brussels, killing three people and wounding another before fleeing…’]. In recent years, France has had the highest number of incidents of any single country.
The attack on Charlie Hebdo was the most deadly. Certainly not the first. One wonders why more wasn’t done to rally unity forces before the massacres at Charlie Hebdo and the Kosher market.
Also of interest, both CNN, where Mr. Tapper works, and MSNBC have refused to show Charlie Hebdo’s “survivor” issue cover depicting the Prophet Muhammad weeping while holding a sign saying “Je suis Charlie” (“I am Charlie”), so as to avoid offending followers of the Prophet. But isn’t free speech part of what Mr. Tapper wanted us to march for? Will Mr. Tapper complain and shame his own network?
Is part of the problem that too many have long been addicted to dangerous political correctness in not calling out the intolerance of radical Islam? As Mia Farrow tweeted today, “Dispiriting that some news stations in the US are not showing the new #CharlieHebdo cartoons. When we back off, the terrorists win.”
There are many ways to show unity here and abroad. The administration’s absence was wrong. But likewise it is wrong that anti-Semitism has been on the rise for a decade and not prompted greater action until now, or that we still seem to be tiptoeing via political correctness when so many others are in danger zones risking so much more.
It is my hope that the unity rally awakened a need for peaceful cooperation, greater tolerance between nations and a firm stand against violent thugs who corrupt with hate. That hope is coupled with another that this rally comes before a tipping point to more violence.
And before shaming anyone, better to make sure one’s own side of the street is clean.
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