So, whether you agree that it's a good answer or a bad answer, you all know that there's an answer to this question: for two hundred years this year, the standards set by the Congress of Vienna make the Ambassador the personal representative of the chief executive and entitled to represent him and meet with his equals in his place. Therefore, there was top level representation in accordance with the accepted standards of international law in the modern era. "And so absolutely no slight should be read into this. The Ambassador is exactly the right person to attend in the absence of the head of state."
Why can't this woman give that answer?
Does she not know? I'm willing to excuse John Kerry for his ignorance, which is only to be expected. But if there's one person in the world who should be expected to know how to explain this, it's the spokeswoman for the US Department of State.
I'm done defending the administration here. Some foreign service officers in Paris got it right, and they apparently deserve a massive debt of their countrymen's gratitude, because they are the only ones in the entire government who seem to have known what the United States was supposed to do if the President decided not to come.