World leaders marched arm-in-arm with millions through the streets of Paris. There were long-time adversaries such as the Israeli prime minister and the head of the Palestinian Authority, and stalwart allies such as the leaders of Germany, France and the United Kingdom.
What was missing was the presence of senior official from the United States — a mistake for which the White House repeatedly apologized on Monday.
“I think it’s fair to say that we should have sent someone with a higher profile,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest said. The United States was represented by Jane Hartley, the ambassador to France.
The oversight, which may have been simply the result of a bungled bureaucratic process, offered insight into President Barack Obama’s priorities and style when it comes to managing relationships with allies and adversaries on the world stage.
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.”
Several leading Republicans criticized the Obama administration for not having a more prominent presence at the rally.
“The absence is symbolic of the lack of American leadership on the world stage, and it is dangerous. The attack on Paris, just like previous assaults on Israel and other allies, is an attack on our shared values,” Sen. Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas, wrote in a Time op-ed.