U.S. says it should have sent higher-profile official to Paris rally

WASHINGTON, D.C. (BNO NEWS) - The White House admitted Monday that it should have sent someone with a higher profile to the historic march in Paris, responding to a barrage of criticism after the United States was visibly absent when dozens of world leaders linked arms to show unity in response to last week's attacks.

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest, responding to questions, said the White House now believes the United States should have sent someone with a higher profile to join the march. "Had the circumstances been a little bit different, I think the president himself would have liked to have had the opportunity to be there," he said.

Earnest stopped short of saying who the White House would have sent if given a second chance, explaining that planning for the event began just 36 hours before it began. "The security requirements around a presidential-level visit or even a vice presidential-level visit are onerous and significant," he said.

Earnest added: "They typically have a pretty significant impact on the other citizens who are trying to participate in a large public event like this. We talk about this a lot when it comes to the president attending a basketball game, but the fact of the matter is there were not just thousands of people at the event - there were millions. It wasn't just an arena that needed to be secured, but a large outdoor area that poses significant security challenges."

Obama received intense criticism for not attending the rally, with an administration official telling Britain's Daily Mail that the president spent much of the day watching football at the White House. The president's public schedule showed no events for either Saturday or Sunday.

Earnest's comments came just hours after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry rejected the criticism, saying the United States had been "deeply engaged" with France since last week's attacks. "I really think this is sort of quibbling a little bit," he said at a press conference in India, noting that several officials, including the U.S. ambassador to France, were at the rally.

Kerry added: "I would have personally very much wanted to have been there, but couldn't do so because of the commitment that I had here (in India), and that's important to keep those kinds of commitments. That is why I am going there (to France) on my way home, to make it crystal clear how passionately we feel about the events that have taken place there."

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