CNN Transcript (Scroll down for the full clip):
SCIUTTO: Welcome back. I'm Jim Sciutto in Paris.
There were 3.7 million people who turned out today across France to show their unity in the face of terrorism. And joining them were the leaders, the heads of state, of some 50 countries, European, Middle Eastern, African.
Missing, however, and I heard this from many French participants in the rally, French commentators, and others, was the American head of state or vice president or secretary of state. Attorney General Eric Holder is in Paris now for security meetings. He was not at the rally. The most senior American presence was the U.S. ambassador to France.
We're joined now by our panel to discuss this and the importance of this. CNN political commentator Buck Sexton, he's also a former counterterrorism analyst for the CIA. Shadi Hamid, he's fellow at the Brookings Institution Center for Middle East Policy. And joining me in Paris again, Boston College professor of political science, Jonathan Laurence.
Jonathan, perhaps I could begin with you. That was a visible and a noticeable presence. You know this country well. Was that a mistake for the Obama administration?
JONATHAN LAURENT: I think that it takes so much time to prepare a presidential visit that it would be unrealistic to expect the president to turn up after just a few days. He made a point to go to the French embassy in person which is really unprecedented. He wrote a long message in their condolences book.
Secretary of State Kerry gave a long speech. I know the French people appreciate it very much.
While you're right that it would have been nice to have a more visible American presence, I think that there's been no lack of messages of solidarity from us and frankly, we're on the battlefield with them as well. There can be no doubt about America and France standing together in the war.
SCIUTTO: Buck Sexton, can I ask you, your background at the CIA, the security difficulty. Do you think that was a factor, because it was noted, and we all noticed Benjamin Netanyahu was here, someone who certainly faces terror threats when he's abroad. Other, Francois Hollande in a country that has 5,000 known or suspected terrorists and many others.
Is security a reasonable explanation for not sending the president or the vice president?
BUCK SEXTON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I'm not sure it's reasonable in this instance. It's the only explanation, though, I can think of. So, I guess in that sense, we have to accept it. Maybe security and logistics as was mentioned before.
But given, I think, the gravity of the situation, the fact you have so many other world leaders, as we just saw there, who showed up, and the importance of this event, I think, I think the president quite honestly should have been there. I'm waiting for them to give a justification or some kind of rationale as to why they couldn't have the president or somebody of a senior level show up. I think that's the important distinction here.
OK. The president can't go. The secretary of state can't show up? The vice president can't show up? What would it take to get them there? I mean, this is, I think, an instance where the administration has
dropped the ball and when it comes to foreign relations, particularly foreign relations that deal with our allies, this administration has had problems. And I think this is another instance where that's come up and I think that they'll look back on this and recognize it was a mistake.