The Messenger is the Message

By Jeffrey Page

Close to 2 million people gathered in Paris on Sunday to condemn the murderous attacks on the staff of Charlie Hebdo and on a kosher supermarket that resulted in the deaths of 17 people. One of those attending the march was David Cameron, the British prime minister. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as there. So was Mahmoud Abbas, leader of the Palestinian Authority. German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi were there as well.

Oh, and Jane D. Hartley was there to represent us. Hartley is the United States ambassador to France, and probably known to as many Frenchmen and women as the French ambassador to the United States is known to Americans. You know; whatsisname, Gérard Araud.

But President Obama couldn’t make it. Nor could Vice President Joe Biden. Nor could Secretary of State John Kerry. Apparently nobody from America could make it, so we sent Jane D. Hartley.

And in doing so, Obama revealed an insensitivity not worthy of a world leader. France, after all, is America’s oldest ally, and you just don’t treat old friends quite as shabbily as Obama has with France and its people.

While President Obama may have been too busy to travel to Paris, his counterpart, François Hollande, took the American disrespect gracefully and, speaking through a spokeswoman, declared that he had not been offended. “President Obama supported France in their common struggle against terrorism,” he said.

As though imitating a Ringling Bros. clown stepping into a bucket, Obama caused further embarrassment to himself by giving some of his sharpest critics a free ride for a couple of news cycles.

–Sending Jane D. Hartley to the Paris march was “beyond crass, even for this administration,” said Reince Priebus, the chairman of the Republican National Committee.

–“Our president should have been there,” Senator Ted Cruz wrote in Time Magazine.

–Obama is “a failure when it comes to fighting Islamic jihadists,” said Mike Huckabee.

–“Skipping this rally will be remembered as a new low in American diplomacy,” said Rick Perry.

–“There’s a plethora of people they could have sent,” said Senator Marco Rubio.

They’re right.

No one would remember “Ich bin ein Berliner” if John Kennedy had ordered some deputy assistant secretary of state no one ever heard of to deliver it. Nor would anyone recall “Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” if it had been uttered by anyone but Ronald Reagan.

Sometimes the messenger is the message.

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5 Responses to “The Messenger is the Message”

  1. Marshall Rubin Says:

    I don’t think of Obama’s not attending the Paris gathering as a snubbing, but nonetheless a mistake. I have not heard of any European leaders coming here to show solidarity after the Boston Marathon bombing, yet no one has accused those leaders of being insensitive.
    I WAS offended when, after Scott Walker declared war on Wisconsin public employees, Obama promised to join workers on their picket line, equipped with a “comfortable pair of shoes.” He never showed up.
    The big test will come when after the GOP delivers attacks on Social Security, Obamacare, his immigration policies, and many of our long-cherished social services, will the president show a backbone by using his veto powers? Will congressional Democrats uphold those vetoes? If and when Obama folds, THEN I’ll be ready to condemn him and possibly abandon the Democrats forever. I hate just about everything the Repugnant Party stands for, but at least when they were the minority, they fought hard and dirty and never gave in. They win because they’re persistent.

    Yes, Obama’s absence from the lineup in Paris is significant, but if he and the Dummycrats drop the ball on our domestic issues, we’ll all be up shit’s creek.

  2. Randy Hurst Says:

    Come on Jeff, give it a rest! Repeating the criticisms of right wing extremist politicians, pundits; idiots all, is really lame.

    Obama has had plenty on his plate planning his course of action for the remainder of his term, which is/was more important than a trip to France. BTW, for his entire presidency, he has received nothing but obstruction, false criticism and media/corporate malice. Frankly, I believe history will prove Obama to be one of America’s most intelligent, courageous, mature and effective leaders along with Lincoln, Roosevelt and JFK. So, stuff it!

    And to comment on Marshall’s questions, I believe Obama made it clear what he intends in his State of the Union address, and I never for one second doubted that he has the backbone to do so.

  3. Jeffrey Page Says:

    Thanks Randy, but simply because a criticism of the president comes from the right wing doesn’t automatically make it extremist, idiotic or lame. Political? Absolutely. But lame? Not necessarily. To deny that the messenger is the message is, I believe, naive. In this case, the message translates as “Duh.”

    I base this on my assumption that at least one person in the Administration realized that we were ignoring France at a time when its problems and ours are coalescing. At least one person sent his/her concern along, and someone (pretty high up, no doubt) said No to sending a U.S. rep. to the march higher than the ambassador.

    I wish the Obama administration was as concerned about our relationship to France and the French people as I am.

    For now, I think we looked like jerks.


  4. Jeffrey Page Says:

    Marshall, For the sake of argument, lets agree that it was a mistake and not a snub. We are talking about the president of the United States making that mistake in statesmanship. The leader of the free world, making a mistake like that is unacceptable. How big is the White House staff? A thousand people? Surely someone passed along the message that we were depending on an ambassador no one ever heard of and that maybe we ought to send someone important. Like the president. Still, no response from President Obama.

    I think you’re right about foreign leaders not attending Boston after the bombing. They should have been there and they weren’t.

    The prez should have been in Paris. And if he couldn’t make it, Biden should have been there. And if someone had to break an appointment to be there, so be it.


  5. Marshall Rubin Says:

    Jeff, I agree that the prez should have been in Europe, but he’s got a huge task in front of him: to stand, possibly alone against a powerful group that wants to take our nation, and even the world back to around 1855. He’s on shaky ground, since there’s no telling if the Senate Democrats will even uphold any of his promised vetoes–they’re so unreliable, and even cowardly.

    Besides, as perverse it may sound, France needed a jolt. To many there, France would not be a potential target for Muslim terrorism were it not for the Jews, both within and outside their nation. Will the French and the rest of Europe join with the terrorists in the same way that they succumbed to and accepted Nazis during WWII, or will they reject antisemitism and fight terrorism? If that bombing doesn’t stiffen their resolve, nothing will.

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