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Amid criticism, the White House admitted fault by not sending President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden or other top-ranking official to the unity rally in Paris on Sunday where more than 40 heads of state marched through Paris.
“It is fair to say we should have sent someone with a higher profile,” spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters Monday. The only noted American official in attendance was the U.S ambassador to France.
Earnest said the rally was conceived on Friday evening and did not allow enough time to pull off the security feat required for President Barack Obama to march amid the public, which attracted more than three-and-a-half million people. Earnest said it posed “significant security challenges.”
President Barack Obama has received significant fallout for not attending the rally or sending some of his top lieutenants. Critics argued that the President owed it to France, a U.S. ally, to show his solidarity and to send a message to violent extremists that the U.S. will not stand down.
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, wrote a scathing opinion piece in Time on Monday, saying, “Many of our allies gathered together in Paris yesterday in an admirable display of determination. Our President should have been there, because we must never hesitate to stand with our allies. We should never hesitate to speak the truth. In Paris or anywhere else in the world.”
Attorney General Eric Holder was in Paris during the time of the march Sunday for an international security summit but didn’t join in the march. He appeared on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” saying “the French have been among our best allies, our greatest friends in this fight against global terrorism. And we are here to express our solidarity with them.”
But critics thought that the visual presence of attending the march was too significant of an opportunity to pass.
During a trip to India Monday, Secretary of State John Kerry said he didn’t attend because of a previously scheduled visit to India, but that he is traveling to Paris later this week.
“I asked my team what the earliest is I could travel to Paris to show, once again, to reaffirm the connection between the United States and our oldest ally,” Kerry told reporters while in India.
As the defense budget has been reduced and retooled and as President Obama has ended the war in Iraq and wound down the war in Afghanistan, criticism continues to mount among critics questioning his commitment to fighting Islamic extremism.
A large amount of money is still spent on the effort to defeat terrorists however. The nonpartisan Congressional Research Service found “annual war costs decreased from a peak of $195 billion in FY2008 to $95 billion enacted in FY2014.” The 2015 budget includes about $79 billion for war funding.