During the Monday White House briefing, press secretary Josh Earnest admitted that the White House should have “sent someone with a higher profile” than the ambassador to France to the Unity March in Paris on Sunday.
This came after the White House was widely smacked down by the media and various politicians in the aftermath of not sending a high-ranking official after 40 heads of state and government appeared with French President Francois Hollande at the solidarity rally. Earnest said he did not know what Obama was doing on Sunday, while Vice President Joe Biden was at his home in Delaware.
“What was on the television screens that people across this country, and I think even across the globe, was a remarkable display of unity by the French people in the face of these terrible terror attacks. And the way that country has come together, I do think struck a chord and inspired people all across the world and throughout this country,” Earnest said. “It was a remarkable display. there were also a number of other world leaders who were there to participate and show support as well.”
“And some have asked whether or not the United States should have sent someone with a higher profile than the Ambassador to France, and I think it’s fair to say we should have sent someone with a higher profile to be there,” Earnest admitted.
“That said, there’s no doubt that the American people and this administration stand four-square behind our allies in France as they face down this threat,” Earnest added.
Among those who attended the event were British Prime Minister David Cameron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder was in Paris on Sunday, but rather to attend a security summit meeting convened by the French Interior Ministry.
“Had the circumstances been a little bit different, I think the president himself would have liked to have had the opportunity to be there,” Earnest said. “The fact is, this is obviously a march that the planning for which only began on Friday night, and 36 hours later it had begun.”
“What’s also clear is that the security requirements around a presidential level visit or vice presidential level visit are significant. And I think in a situation like this, they typically have a pretty significant impact on the other citizens who are trying to participate in a large public event like this,” Earnest continued, “but the fact of the matter is, there were not just thousands of people at the event, there are millions. It wasn’t just an arena that needed to be secured but a large outdoor area that poses significant security challenges.”
“I’m confident that the professionals at the Secret Service could overcome those challenges, but it would have been very difficult to do so without significantly impacting the ability of common citizens to participate in the march,” Earnest said.