Why There Was Nothing Accidental About Obama’s Decision Not to Go To Paris

PressConferencePresident Obama has been broadly criticized for electing not to go, and not to send another top official, to participate in the recent massive unity rally in Paris. Many have blamed the decision on Obama’s insensitivity to “optics,” and in a press conference, his press secretary laid blame at the feet of the Secret Service. Now, in an article in the Washington Examiner, Byron York offers an alternative explanation. York says Obama’s decision was not an oversight, but rather a logical progression of his decision to downplay the threat of terrorism in the world.

York reminds us:

“The analogy we use around [the White House] sometimes, and I think is accurate, is if a JV team puts on Lakers uniforms, that doesn’t make them Kobe Bryant,” Obama told the New Yorker magazine in a January 2014 interview. The president was referring to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria but was also suggesting in a broader sense that a number of post-9/11 offshoot terrorist organizations aren’t worth the sort of war-footing mobilization that took place in the George W. Bush years.

Seven months earlier, Obama made an extended case for downgrading the terrorist threat in a May 23, 2013, speech at the National Defense University. He mentioned al Qaeda 24 times in the speech and argued that America’s victory over the organization behind 9/11 was nearly complete.

“Today, the core of al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan is on a path to defeat,” Obama said. “Their remaining operatives spend more time thinking about their own safety than plotting against us.”

Yes, there will be threats in the future, Obama acknowledged, but they will be smaller. “We must take these threats seriously, and do all that we can to confront them. But as we shape our response, we have to recognize that the scale of this threat closely resembles the types of attacks we faced before 9/11.”

The implication of Obama’s speech was that Americans must live with a certain level of threat, as long as it does not approach 9/11 levels, and otherwise just move on.

From the beginning of Obama’s presidency, the White House has made clear it did not want to use the words “Islamic jihad.” A 2010 New York Times article said White House officials “have made a point of disassociating Islam from terrorism in public comments, using the phrase ‘violent extremism’ in place of words like ‘jihad’ and ‘Islamic terrorism.’ ”

Many observers have expressed surprise that, if the President chose not to participate in the unit march, he did not at least send Vice-President Biden. Viewed in the light of Obama’s past pronouncements that terrorism is a declining threat, however, and the desire of Democrats to move on from the subject to its domestic agenda, it is clear the President’s absence in Paris was no oversight.

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