White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest Monday insisted that President Obama could not have attended Sunday’s march in Paris because security arrangements would have had an adverse impact on the event, but he admitted that the White House had not even consulted the Secret Service on the matter.
Earnest acknowledged that some high ranking U.S. official other than the president or the vice president should have attended. But his effort to insulate the president from criticism appeared to fall apart when Julie Hirschfeld Davis of the New York Times asked if it was correct, as the Secret Service and told her, that the White House had not consulted with the Secret Service about security arrangements for a presidential visit.
The decision, it turns out, was based on a feeling about past events. Earnest said:
I’m not going to get into the planning or the logistics that went into the decision related to the march.
What I have merely reiterated is something that we have talked about on many occasions and applies to every time the president wants to attend an event alongside thousands or hundreds of thousands or even millions of other people, which is that that requires significant, onerous security precautions that necessarily have an impact on the ability of those who are attending that event to fully participate.
There is no doubt that had the president attended that march on short notice yesterday, the security precautions around his participation would have had an impact on those who attended the march.
Earnest provided no information on who, if not the Secret Service, made the judgement based on past experience about whether the security would be too onerous in this particular case.
Nor did Earnest indicate how the White House came to the conclusion that Vice President Biden, whose security requirements are far less than the president’s, couldn’t attend. Is Biden’s security really much greater than that used by someone like Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu or German Chancellor Merkel, both of whom were at the march?
While he said he thought Obama would have liked to attend, Earnest gave no indication about whether the president ordered anyone to run the traps and find out whether it was possible.
Obama spent the day at home at the White House. Earnest said he had no idea what Obama was doing. Biden was at home in Delaware. No one knows what he was doing either or whether he asked to go to Paris.