Your oldest friend dies and you don't go to the funeral. You justify this by saying to yourself, "It's too far away. It's so sudden. I can't make the necessary plans. I don't have the time. It's just too inconvenient. The family will understand."

Of course, this reasoning is self-serving and bogus. All of it is nonsense and heartless. That's what I thought when I saw no American of political importance or significance marching in Paris after the horrible loss of life by radical Islamists. Fifty world leaders were so moved that they made it their business to be there.


Representing the United Kingdom was Prime Minister David Cameron. Representing Germany was Chancellor Angela Merkel. Representing Israel was Prime Minister Benjamin NetanyahuBenjamin (Bibi) NetanyahuMORE. Representing the Palestinian people was Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Representing Jordan was King Abdullah. What a moment. What a sight. Marching together in a magnificent show of unity and solidarity with the French people. Where was our president?

To this day, we don't know why he wasn't there. Aaron David Miller, a former adviser to the six secretaries of State, probably said it best: "It's a poster child for tone deafness." I couldn't agree more. I believe it is but another clear manifestation of the persona of this president. Barack Obama's White House prides itself on the slogan "No drama Obama." What was this to him — an example of unnecessary drama? Doesn't he realize or understand that "showing up" is part of the job. That, in this case, the symbolism was substance.

This is an individual of such diffidence, distance and purposeful disengagement that these personal traits made us, the 320 million Americans, look bad in the eyes of the world. There is no other way to say it. President Obama embarrassed the country he leads.

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest grudgingly fessed up that this was a mistake. The lame line was "had the circumstances been different he would have liked to attend." What does that mean?

If he couldn't go, why not Vice President BidenJoe BidenBiden 'disappointed' in Senate parliamentarian ruling but 'respects' decision Taylor Swift celebrates House passage of Equality Act Donald Trump Jr. calls Bruce Springsteen's dropped charges 'liberal privilege' MORE? Or Attorney General Eric HolderEric Himpton HolderLIVE COVERAGE: Senate set to consider Garland for AG Census to delay data delivery, jeopardizing redistricting crunch Biden's commission on the judiciary must put justice over politics MORE? He was actually in Paris during the time of the unity march. He had time to do multiple TV interviews, but no time to go to the march and represent his country. We were told that he had to get back to the U.S. Why — what was so important? No reason was given.

So who represented us? Our ambassador to France, Jane Hartley. Andrea Mitchell of NBC News did a masterful job of finding her deep in the crowd wearing sunglasses. Wearing sunglasses! A march which had as its hallmark visibility and vulnerability. Our designated representative sought to meld into the crowd and above all — not be recognized.

Her boss, Secretary of State John KerryJohn KerryClimate change rears its ugly head, but Biden steps up to fight it Recapturing the spirit of Bretton Woods The Iran deal is fragile — here's what the Biden administration can do MORE, surely did not distinguish himself. He called it all "quibbling." To make matters even worse, he said Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland was at the march. She was at a march — not in Paris, but in Washington.

One more point: The attack at the kosher market was a planned murder. It was done to signal to the 500,000 Jews living in France that they are not safe. French President François Hollande, along with Netanyahu, went to the Great Synagogue of Paris to honor those who had perished. No American representative was with them. Why was that? How come no one at the White House or the State Department or the American Embassy in Paris knew or cared enough to be there?

This episode will be remembered. It was not simply a staff screw-up. This entire sorry and terrible tragic experience shows that this White House continues to lack the basic instincts and qualities of world leadership.

Plotkin is a political analyst, a contributor to the BBC on American politics and a columnist for The Georgetowner.