Obama’s missed Paris moment an image of who he really is

January 15, 2015

The time was July, 2008, the place – Berlin, Germany, – the man, one Barack Hussein Obama, self-declared “citizen of the world”.  Tens of thousands packed the tree lined parkway to get a glimpse and to hear his words for change:

“Now the world will watch and remember what we do here – what we do with this moment.…Will we stand for the human rights of the dissident in Burma, the blogger in Iran, or the voter in Zimbabwe? Will we give meaning to the words “never again” in Darfur?  Will we acknowledge that there is no more powerful example than the one each of our nations projects to the world?”

A month later, that same man stood before an adulating crowd of thousands to accept his party’s nomination for the Presidency of the United States of America in what Reuters described as “an elaborate columned stage resembling a miniature Greek temple.

What a difference between candidate and President.  Human rights violations run even more rampant across the globe today and that Iranian blogger most likely died while Obama sat on the sidelines during the summer of 2009 when they were begging for our help.

Everything about candidate Obama was optics and symbolism.  Soaring rhetoric, towering columns, cheering crowds; He rode it all straight into the Oval Office.

Which is why then it’s so perplexing that President Obama chose to skip one of the most symbolic moments of our time; The Sunday rally in Paris where over 40 world leaders marched in unison against radical Islamic terrorism.

Britain’s Daily Mail put it in context:  “Heads of state from every major European power, including British Prime Minister David Cameron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, joined French President Francois Hollande. But the U.S.A. was M.I.A.”

The first excuse was Presidential security – completely understandable – except the Secret Service said it was never asked about a Presidential trip.  (Mr. Obama did however feel quite secure in watching some Sunday NFL and hosting the San Antonio Spurs the next day.)

Secretary of State John Kerry was in Munich, Germany on Saturday but decided to continue on to India to rave on the projected doom of climate change rather than stand against the very real danger of terrorism.

Attorney General Eric Holder was actually in Paris during the march, but chose to appear on American Sunday talk shows instead.

The final excuse for the highest ranking official representing the United States being only an Obama campaign bundler turned Ambassador Jane Hartley was that the march was just optics and symbolism.

Yes, the Paris march was a symbolic photo op, but history shows us that optics do matter, symbolism is important.

What would the 20th century be without the optics of the Iwo Jima flag raising, little “John John” saluting as his father’s casket, the Times Square VJ day kiss, the lone student holding off a column of Chinese tanks.

Or the symbolism in FDR’s “A date which will live in infamy….”,  JFK’s “Ich bin ein Berliner”, Reagan’s “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall”.

Radical Islamic terrorism is the issue of our time. Yet when it comes to the victims of that terror the only consistent Presidential response has been one of callous indifference.

From his glib remarks before commenting on the first Ft. Hood terrorist attack, to flying off to Vegas to campaign the day after four Americans died in Benghazi, to hitting the links and laughing it up just minutes after remarks on the savage death of journalist James Foley, Mr. Obama has projected to the world time and time again that his only true priority is himself.

Leaders don’t cower behind fences, they stand atop them.  They rally friends and warn foes. They make the moment of the day the history of tomorrow.

The world is in need of American leadership now more than at any time since World War II.

Is there no one in the west wing with a step stool?  Our President has a fence to climb.

PUBLISHER’s NOTE:  An edited version of this column first appeared in the January 15, 2015 print edition of the Joplin Globe.

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