President Obama Will Not Be Joining 3,000 Dignitaries At The 70th Anniversary Of The Liberation Of Auschwitz
[guest post by Dana]
This coming week marks the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. Approximately 300 remaining survivors are expected to attend a commemoration ceremony on Tuesday. Due to most survivors being 90 years or older, it clearly marks the last major anniversary where such a significant number of survivors will be in attendance.
With that, the 300 survivors will be part of a larger group of 3,000 dignitaries attending the ceremony. This would also include heads of state and royalty:
A preliminary list of those attending includes President François Hollande of France, President Joachim Gauck of Germany and President Heinz Fischer of Austria, as well as King Philippe of Belgium, King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands and Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark.
Unfortunately, President Obama will not be in attendance to represent the United States as he is due to arrive in India on Sunday. Instead, representing the United States will be Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew.
It’s a shame that our president will once again not be representing the United States before the world at an historic occasion. This especially as the opportunity comes on the heels of the recent tone-deaf decision made by the White House not to have the president attend the unity march in Paris and publicly stand in solidarity with other world leaders supporting a traumatized France. Further, in light of increasing antisemitism sweeping across Europe and the large number of Jews leaving Paris and points beyond because they no longer feel safe, it would seem a most opportune moment for the President of the United States to personally express to the world America’s unwavering support of the Jewish people who have endured so much – both then and now. And not lost from view, this happens as the White House announces that neither the president nor John Kerry will be meeting with Benjamin Netanyahu when he is in Washington next month.
Anyway, how pressing is this trip to India? Well, Associated Press White House correspondent Julie Pace suggests maybe not that pressing:
“President Obama crosses into one of the indisputable stages of a lame duck presidency this week. That is the non-essential foreign travel stage,” Pace said on CNN. “He’s going to India basically for a parade and a visit to the Taj Mahal.
“Yes, there are strategic interests with India, and those will be on the agenda, but think about the timing of this. The president is going to India three days after his State of the Union Address. A period of time when he normally would be out trying to rally Congress and the public behind his agenda. I think this says all you need to know about the likelihood that anything he announces on Tuesday actually gets done.”
And some of what is on the agenda: climate change; counterterrorism cooperation; stability of the Asia-Pacific region and defense trade and technology.
UPDATE: Commenter happyfeet notes that President Obama has decided to cut short his trip to India so that he can pay official respects to King Salman bin Abdulaziz and the family of late King Abdullah. Vice-President Biden was originally scheduled to make the trip.
It’s a bitter irony that the president has chosen to make the special trip to Saudi Arabia to pay our country’s respects, given the kingdom’s historical and continuing grim record on human rights violations and yet chose not to make the trip to Auschwitz to pay respects to the survivors and families who suffered some of the world’s most horrific human rights violations on record.