Obama and Biden shun Paris, send Eric Holder, who skips out on rally that drew millions in France
The U.S. attorney general, in Paris for a terrorism summit with French President Francois Hollande, did not join world leaders such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel, British Prime Minister David Cameron, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas for the march and rally that drew a million people days after 12 were shot at satirical paper Charlie Hebdo. Others such as Obama and Vice President Biden were also not in attendance.
More than 40 European leaders and almost every French official turned out for the massive unity rally in Paris Sunday — but there was no sign of the U.S.
Neither President Obama or Vice President Biden made the trip to Paris, although dozens of other world leaders and officials put ceremony aside and jostled for space amid the crowds in a stirring show of support against terrorism.
The U.S. did send Attorney General Eric Holder to attend a pre-march terrorism summit convened by French President Francois Hollande.
Holder, 63, joined with Hollande in condemning the recent Paris attacks in the strongest possible terms and said the U.S. will hold another terrorism summit in D.C. in February.
But his support apparently stopped there — because he wasn’t seen at the emotional “Je Suis Charlie” rally afterward that attracted 1.3 million. Across France, nearly 4 million people turned out in similar demonstrations.
As chanting spectators filled the Place de la Republique, the only U.S. dignitary present was the U.S. Ambassador to France Jane Hartley.
“Attorney General Holder — a Cabinet level official — is representing the United States at the security meetings in Paris today. He is joined by the DHS Deputy Secretary (Alejandro) Mayorkas. The United States is represented at the march by Ambassador Hartley,” a senior Obama administration official said.
The lack of U.S. leadership was glaringly apparent as Hollande linked arms with Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel, Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron, and dozens of other world leaders, including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
But an administration official said Obama had made his support known in other ways.
“As far as public signs of French solidarity from the U.S. — don’t forget several public statements from the President, his call to Hollande and a condolence stop to the French embassy,” the official said.
It’s not clear why America’s President didn’t attend. Obama’s public schedule was empty Sunday, as was that of Vice President Joe Biden, one of the president’s most frequent surrogates.
Secretary of State John Kerry — a natural stand-in given his love of all things French and fluency in the language — was in India on Sunday, meeting with the Prime Minister to set the stage for President Obama’s visit there in a few weeks.
Sunday’s unity rally was the largest ever held in Paris, officials said.
Similar events were held across Europe, a call for peace after three days of terror in France that killed 17 innocent victims.