Republicans never miss a beat finding some new pretext for slamming President
The gathering was a defiant affirmation of free speech after the murder of several French cartoonists in last week’s attack by Islamic terrorists at the office of the
Secretary of State
It was not that long ago that Republicans were insisting on being served “freedom fries” instead of French fries in the
For their part, the French looked at the inarticulate, squinty-eyed, swaggering Texan in the White House and had all their biases against Americans confirmed. From the earliest days of the relationship between the two nations, many of the French elite have considered Americans to be crude, unsophisticated and a bit barbaric.
These antagonisms are enduring and immensely petty, given the history that the French and Americans share. France played a pivotal role in helping the United States become an independent nation. The U.S. returned the favor by twice saving France from German aggression in the world wars. America's most revered icon, the Statue of Liberty, was a gift from the French people. This goddess of freedom that is so important to us is essentially a sister to Marianne, the symbol of liberty and reason that is the personification of the French nation.
As Americans were ratifying their constitution in 1789, the French Revolution had just begun. The road to liberty, equality and fraternity in France was a long one. The French people repeatedly rebelled against new authoritarian governments and recreated their republic several times before they got it close to right. Through that lengthy process, France became a beacon of freedom as bright as the torch in the hand of the big lady in New York harbor.
Liberty is as precious to the French as it is to any American, Republican or Democrat. Some American conservatives scoff at the intellectual and philosophical tradition that matters so much to the French, but it is that tradition that makes the French passion for freedom of thought and speech especially intense. The right of a caustic cartoonist to say whatever he believes truly matters to them.
The despicable attack on Charlie Hebdo makes clear that France is on the front line in the battle against the closed-minded, violent fanatics of extremist Islam who would stamp out any thought, word or image that varies from their oppressive ideology. The French prime minister, Manuel Valls, is openly calling it a war. "It is a war against terrorism, against jihadism, against radical Islam, against everything that is aimed at breaking fraternity, freedom, solidarity," he said.
Solidarity is what France needs now from the United States. It is too bad Obama could not get to Paris. It is a national embarrassment his administration did not send someone notable to stand in for him. But, at this important hour, sniping from Republicans just adds to the impression that politicians here can focus on nothing but partisan games. From the White House to