The city of light became a beacon of leadership Sunday when more than 40 heads of state came together to denounce terrorism, with one glaring exception: the lack of a high-ranking U.S. official.
French President Francois Hollande, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, British Prime Minister David Cameron and dozens of other world leaders — including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas — all took part in the powerful denunciation of last week’s terror attacks that left 17 innocents dead.
But the nation that stands as the symbolic face of the war on terror was nowhere in sight.
Neither President Obama nor Vice President Biden showed up — and in fact, America’s only representative was its relatively unknown and low-profile ambassador to France.
Obama and Biden had empty public schedules Sunday, but the White House declined to comment on why they didn’t go.
The natural choice — Secretary of State Kerry, a Francophile who speaks the language — was in India for a longstanding engagement with the prime minister, White House officials said.
Attorney General Eric Holder did go to Paris — but only for an anti-terrorism summit convened by Hollande ahead of the unity rally.
Holder left Hollande and the others sometime after the group exited the Elysee Palace. Around the time other world leaders and dignitaries boarded buses to get to the front of the march, Holder was taping an interview for “Meet the Press,” NBC confirmed.
The White House said the attorney general was returning to the U.S. on Sunday night, The New York Times reported.
That left ambassador Jane Hartley, head of a political consulting firm and former Obama campaign bundler who amassed more than $500,000, to carry the torch.
“If the highest-ranking official is an ambassador, I would say that’s a serious mistake,” said Rep. Pete King (R-L.I.), noting that America has asked other countries for troops in Afghanistan and Syria.
“We are looking for cooperation from around the world . . . we should have had someone there who is instantly recognizable (so people) see . . . the face and say that’s the United States of America,’ ” he said.
SOURCE: DAN FRIEDMAN, ADAM EDELMAN, GINGER ADAMS OTIS
NEW YORK DAILY NEWS