More than a million people turned out. More than 40 presidents and prime ministers were there. It was, as the New York Times reported, "the most striking show of solidarity in the West against the threat of Islamic extremism since the Sept. 11 attacks."
But President Obama did not go to Paris. Neither did Joe Biden. Or John Kerry. Attorney General Eric Holder was in the city but he didn't go to the rally either.
There is a visceral reaction, of course. What could Barack Obama have been thinking? How could he not go and show support to a friend who had been attacked? The official explanation is that there were concerns about security and how they would distract from the event. But other world leaders showed up and they managed to figure out a way around the security issues.
The (NY) Daily News ran a Front Page headline, sending President Obama a message in type the size of the Eiffel Tower: "You let the world down"
The (UK) Daily Mail headline read, "America snubs historic Paris rally"
Is it unreasonable to wonder if the President was a no-show precisely because it wasn't a rally against extremism in general, but against Islamic extremism in particular?
Islamic terrorism may be the most challenging issue of our time, but Barack Obama can't bring himself to utter those two words, side by side. For a while, he wouldn't even call terrorism … terrorism. Imagine if FDR refused to talk about the Nazi menace but instead tiptoed around the subject and talked instead about "extremism." Wouldn't that seem … odd?
This is a president who won't even acknowledge that the Islamic State is … Islamic. Despite the fact that the stated goal of the ISIS jihadists is to create a caliphate in the Middle East, President Obama said the organization "is not Islamic." He also said they're not even part of the Muslim religion.
You have to wonder if Mr. Obama thinks that by not linking the words Islamic and terrorism that somehow Islamic terrorism doesn't really exist. Howard Dean, another so-called progressive, recently said on MSNBC (where else?) that those that many of us call Muslim terrorists are not really Muslims because Islam is a religion of peace. George Orwell must be smiling.
"These acts were done by specific people with a specific ideology," Jonah Goldberg said on Fox, "and this White House is still incredibly gun shy, no pun intended, about calling any attention to the fact that the people we're at war with aren't just generic extremists off the shelf, but they're a specific ideology with a specific religious orientation. And President Obama won't even call ISIS Islamic."
Perhaps the president is concerned that he would be offending moderate Muslims if he put the name of their religion alongside the word "terrorism." But if they're truly moderate, they're already offended by the actions of the terrorists.
Or perhaps he's caving to Muslim civil rights groups in America, or doesn't want to rile the volatile Arab Street abroad.
Whether the president understands it or not, his attempt to avoid being polarizing is having the opposite effect.
But let's not think this president doesn't care about terrorism. He most certainly does. That's why next month he's holding a "Summit on Countering Violent Extremism" the purpose of which, according to White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest is "to highlight domestic and international efforts to prevent violent extremists and their supporters from radicalizing, recruiting, or inspiring individuals or groups in the United States and abroad to commit acts of violence, efforts made even more imperative in light of recent, tragic attacks in Ottawa, Sydney, and Paris."
Did you see the words Islamic or Muslim or even terrorism anyplace in that statement?
Words matter. But so does reality, which cannot be changed simply because the leader of the free world refuses to call Islamic terrorism by its name.