- - Monday, January 12, 2015


If Barack Obama has demonstrated one talent in his six years at the White House it’s a unique “gift” for shutting his ears to the music of America. The man who says the Muslim call to evening prayer is the sweetest sound in his ears is deaf to the sounds that warm the hearts and stir the souls of the rest of us.

Now it turns out that he doesn’t hear the music that stirs the rest of the world, either. His snub of the rally against terrorism in Paris, a snub of everything decent about a world in moral chaos, is breathtaking in its coldness to the pain that moved the rest of the world to action.

The iconic photograph of the leaders of the West, marching with other heads of state down Avenue Voltaire in the City of Light, was missing only the image of the president of the United States. Indeed, that was the image vivid in its absence. Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain, President Francois Hollande of France, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel marched in solidarity with the people of France and indeed all civilization, more than 3 million men, women and children in the greatest outpouring of celebration since the liberation of Paris from the Nazis in 1944. Even Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority — which knows a thing or two about inflicting the pain of terrorism — managed to work his face into some of the photographs.

President Obama, who scorns Abraham Lincoln’s hymn to America as “the exceptional nation,” nevertheless made himself the exception of the day in the march of presidents and prime ministers.

Mr. Obama was safe at home at the White House, perhaps watching the National Football League playoff games, with nothing on his schedule but a day of ease and comfort. He could have ordered Air Force One rolled out for a comfortable day trip to Paris, to be back for a bedtime hot chocolate with Michelle. With snow still covering the ground after the first snowfall of the year, golf was not an option, so he wouldn’t even have missed an opportunity to indulge in what moves him most.

He could have risked sending Joe Biden. All good ol’ Joe had to do was to keep in step with his lip buttoned for the day of mourning. What are vice presidents for if not for relieving presidents from chores they don’t want? Nobody expected either the president or the vice president to make a speech, which may be why Mr. Obama was not interested in the occasion. Secretary of State John Kerry speaks passable French but he was in India. Eric Holder, his attorney general, was already in Paris on other business. He would not even make a brief drop-by on his way to the airport for his flight home to Washington. The ambassador to France would have to do. Nice lady that she is, the appearance of merely an ambassador only emphasized the snub.

The excuse put out by the White House, as expressions of outrage rolled across America, was that the president didn’t want his appearance to distract from the occasion. This appeased nobody. The president would have distracted no one in the enormous crowd; Mr. Obama and his equally enormous ego would have been swallowed by the immensity of the day. Reason enough, no doubt, to blow off Paris.

Mr. Obama could have walked down Avenue Voltaire to confront a fear with defiance on a day that columnist Anne-Elisabeth Moutet described in the London Daily Telegraph as a day for France to call up the spirit of the Blitz. But this president doesn’t do defiance, and, for whatever reason, he doesn’t do confrontation with Islam, even radical Islam. Not for the first time, Barack Obama let down the country he does not understand.

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