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Sen. Marco Rubio criticized the absence of top-tier U.S. officials at the Paris rally

The Florida Republican said John Kerry or Eric Holder should have been there

CNN  — 

Two potential Republican presidential candidates criticized the White House for failing to send representatives to the unity rally in Paris, where world leaders were among at least 3.7 million people who marched in solidarity after last week’s terror attacks.

Sen. Ted Cruz stressed that President Obama should have been there to link arms with other heads of state, while Sen. Marco Rubio argued there were a “plethora of people” that could have gone for the United States.

“I thought it was a mistake not to send someone,” Rubio, R-Florida, said on CBS’ “This Morning.”

Kerry defends absence from unity rally, will go to Paris on Thursday

The absence of well-known U.S. officials has put the Obama administration on defense, with Secretary of State John Kerry calling criticism of the decision “quibbling” on Sunday. Kerry said he could not attend the event because of a prior commitment in India.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder was in Paris attending a summit on fighting terrorism, but he was also nowhere to be seen at the march.

Rubio, who’s releasing a new book “American Dreams” as he considers a presidential bid, said he understands why President Barack Obama did not attend, arguing that his security detail could become “disruptive” at an event like the rally.

But he suggested Holder or Kerry should have gone. “There are a plethora of people they could have sent,” he said. “I think in hindsight, I would hope that they would do it differently.”

Jake Tapper: I’m ashamed by U.S. leaders’ absence in Paris

In an opinion piece for TIME, Cruz, R-Texas, wrote that the absence is “symbolic of the lack of American leadership on the world stage.”

“Our President should have been there, because we must never hesitate to stand with our allies,” he said.

Neither Cruz nor Rubio explained why they didn’t try to attend, themselves.

French President François Hollande’s office defended Obama. A senior official told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour that the U.S. president has been “very present” since the attacks, noting that he was one of the first leaders to call Hollande last Wednesday.

The official also pointed to Obama’s visit to the French Embassy in Washington last week. “For us It was an emotional moment of solidarity,” the official said.