GOP hopefuls hit Obama on absence

GOP hopefuls hit Obama on absence

Several potential Republican presidential candidates have dinged President Obama for not joining dozens of world leaders at Sunday's unity rally in Paris following two terrorist attacks in the French capital. 

Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioTrump moves forward with F-16 sale to Taiwan opposed by China The Hill's Morning Report — Trump and the new Israel-'squad' controversy Trump crosses new line with Omar, Tlaib, Israel move MORE (Fla.), Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward Cruz3 real problems Republicans need to address to win in 2020 The Hill's Morning Report - Trump on defense over economic jitters Democrats keen to take on Cornyn despite formidable challenges MORE (Texas) and outgoing Gov. Rick PerryJames (Rick) Richard PerryThe credible case for Texas and its clean energy solutions Oversight: Trump confidant Tom Barrack pushed for Saudi nuclear plant construction Amazon taps Trump ally to lobby amid Pentagon cloud-computing contract fight MORE (Texas) on Monday said Obama erred by not showing up to lock arms with other leaders.

In a tacit admission that those criticisms were legitimate, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said on Monday that the administration had made a misstep.

“It’s fair to say we should have sent someone with a higher profile,” Earnest said at the White House media briefing.

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His comments came in the immediate wake of the Republican remarks.

“This is simply no way to treat our oldest and first ally," Perry told The Washington Post

"President Obama should have stood with France in person, defending Western values in the struggle against terrorism and showing support for the victims of this despicable act of terror," Perry said. 

At least 40 world leaders joined French President François Hollande in Paris on Sunday, including British Prime Minister David Cameron, Israeli Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Obama stayed at the White House while Vice President Biden was at his home in Delaware. Secretary of State John Kerry, who is set to travel to France later this week, was in India. Attorney General Eric Holder, who had recorded several interviews that aired on Sunday shows, was in France discussing counterterrorism efforts but did not attend the rally. 

U.S. Ambassador to France Jane Hartley represented America and tweeted photos from the march.

Obama has not personally commented on the absence of high-profile U.S. leaders at the rally.

Earlier in the day Monday, Rubio acknowledged that the security and staff requirements for an overseas visit by an American president can be "disruptive," but said "it was a mistake not to send someone" and that "people will take cues."

"You recall what it felt like after 9/11 to have all these nations around the world rally to our side and take up our cause after we suffered so greatly," Rubio said. "The French are going through a similar trauma."

Cruz took an even stronger tone, emphasizing the presence of American allies at the rally.

"Our president should have been there, because we must never hesitate to stand with our allies," he wrote in an op-ed in Time magazine on Monday.

"The absence is symbolic of the lack of American leadership on the world stage, and it is dangerous," Cruz added.

More than a million people marched in the rally, according to multiple reports. It capped off a tumultuous week in France, in which a dozen people died after gunmen attacked the offices of Charlie Hebdo, a satirical newspaper in Paris known for its cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, and a later standoff left four people dead.

The lack of U.S. representation at the event was also panned by many in the American media.

MSNBC host Andrea Mitchell on the "Today Show" called it a "stunning absence."

"There was higher-level Obama administration representation on this season's episodes of 'The Good Wife' on CBS," CNN anchor Jake Tapper wrote Monday.

The New York Daily News’s front page claimed that Obama, Biden, Kerry and Holder "let the world down" by not making an appearance at the rally.

Former Obama White House spokesman Jay Carney told CNN that the admission of error from the administration was “unusual but very wise.” At the same time, however, Carney suggested that the episode was unlikely to bring lasting problems.

“I do think that this is, while important and symbolically important, not a story that is likely to cause a lot of damage to the White House, the administration or the country for the long term here,” he said. “There's just more substantive issues the administration is going to have to contend with and that reporters will turn to."