via Verne Strickland USA DOT COM 1/12/15
White House: 'It's fair to say' we were wrong on Paris unity rally
By Justin Sink - 01/12/15 01:54 PM EST
The White House erred in not sending a higher profile representative to this weekend's solidarity march in France following a terrorist attack on a satirical newspaper, press secretary Josh Earnest said Monday.
"It's fair to say we should have sent someone with a higher profile to be there," Earnest told reporters at the White House.
"Had the circumstances been a little bit different, I think the president himself would have liked to be there," Earnest added.
The White House said planning for the march had begun only 36 hours before the event, and that the security required for the president to visit would have been "onerous and significant."
Still, Earnest said, there should be no doubt that the administration and the American people stood in solidarity with France, nor that the United States was "committed to a strong relationship. The United States is with France and committed to the same kind of values they are."
The White House would not discuss whether it considered sending the president at any point.
Earnest said he did not know why Attorney General Eric Holder, who was in Paris earlier Sunday for a series of high-level counterterrorism meetings, was unable to stay to attend the march. He also said he did not know what the president, who remained at the White House throughout the day, did with his time.
The administration has come under fire from media commentators and Republican lawmakers for not sending a top administration officials to join the march, in which more than 40 heads of state participated.
"Especially at a time of such great pain, people will take cues from something like that," said Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) in an interview with CBS News.
"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."
Earnest, asked if that criticism was fair, said that it was "certainly a free country and people have the opportunity to subject their elected officials to criticism and make it clear when they disagree with an action… taken by the administration."
Earlier Monday, Secretary of State John Kerry said he planned to visit France later in this week.
"I don't think the people of France have any doubt about America's understanding of what happened, about our personal sense of loss, and our deep commitment to the people of France in this moment of trial," Kerry said.