Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Charlie and Obama

On Sunday the French took to the streets in support of the people murdered at Charlie Hebdo. They were joined by the heads of 40 states including Israel and Palestine. Notably missing was anyone from the United States. The lame duck Attorney General was in Paris but sat out the march. The Secretary of State was in a conference in India. The President and Vice-President were home.

The White House has admitted that this was a mistake but it still remains unexplained. A few lame excuses were offered - foreign trips take months of planning and an American president can't expose himself in public like that. Considering that 40 other heads of state were able to overcome these obstacles, these are either half-hearted or they reflect the belief that the President of the United States is more important than any other head of state (in which case, why not send Biden?).

Most of the President's usual defenders have turned on him over this. Even Jon Stewart on the Daily Show complained.

The best that Dana Milbank, on of the President's few defenders, could come up with was accusing the GOP of an inconsistent attitude toward France. Milbank reminds us that just 12 or 13 years ago we were calling the French Surrender Monkeys. While that is true, the context was that the French were against the war on terror. The march in Paris was in support of the newest victims of that war and the victims being supported were not part of the government, they were satirists (and innocent bystanders). The only inconsistency is in equating the two.

Killing people over cartoons, no matter how offensive, strikes at the heart of a free society. By ignoring the march, the Obama administration signaled that it sees this as a French problem instead of an international one.

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