Trump finds glamour, glitz and military regalia in Macron’s Paris

Analysis: The showy bonhomie between the two presidents isn’t quite convincing

Bonhomie: President Trump and President Macron in Paris on Thursday. Photograph: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

Bonhomie: President Trump and President Macron in Paris on Thursday. Photograph: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

 

President Emmanuel Macron knows the way to Donald Trump’s heart. When the US president arrived in Paris on Thursday to celebrate Bastille Day, Macron indulged the American’s taste for glamour and glitz and all things military.

They dined on raw blue lobster and caviar at the Jules Verne restaurant in the Eiffel Tower. French media reported that Trump would have preferred a hamburger, but the view easily rivalled that from Trump’s skyscraper. First ladies Melania and Brigitte provided glamour.

As a boy Trump attended military academy in New York. He has stocked his cabinet with numerous generals, flooded the Pentagon with money and starved the diplomatic corps.

So Macron gave him military regalia, at Napoleon’s tomb and the museum at Les Invalides. There will be lots more on Friday morning, when 200 US soldiers, airmen, sailors and marines lead French troops in the Bastille Day parade up the Avenue des Champs-Élysées.

There was something awkward, almost embarrassing, about the showy bonhomie between Trump and Macron

There was something awkward, almost embarrassing, about the showy bonhomie between Trump and Macron. It may have been fatigue due to an unrelenting schedule, but Macron let Trump get away with a lot. Unlike Macron’s May 29th meeting with the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, at Versailles, he dared not contradict the older president.

Climate change was the most blatant example. Macron said repeatedly that he remains attached to the 2015 Paris climate accord, which Trump renounced on June 1st. “Should that impact on other topics?” Macron asked rhetorically. “No. Absolutely not.” Macron seemed to excuse Trump’s unconscionable decision, saying twice that the US president was only seeking to implement his campaign promises.

Restaurant le Jules Verne: Brigitte Macron, President Trump, Melania Trump and President Macron at the Eiffel Tower for dinner. Photograph: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters
Restaurant le Jules Verne: Brigitte Macron, President Trump, Melania Trump and President Macron at the Eiffel Tower for dinner. Photograph: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

Trump insidiously compared Macron’s plans to reform France with his own passion for deregulation and the gutting of government programmes devoted to the environment, culture and diplomacy. “The nations of the West also face domestic challenges of our own creation, including vast government bureaucracy that saps the strength from our economies and from our societies,” Trump said.

Macron’s desire for a more streamlined administration that would nonetheless strive for greater justice and equality in French society seemed beyond Trump’s grasp. “I applaud President Macron on his courageous call for less bureaucracy,” Trump said. “It’s a good chant. Less bureaucracy. We can use it too.” He boasted of having “cut regulations at a level we have never seen before” over the past six months.

Bonhomie: President Macron and President Trump in Paris on Thursday. Photograph: Patrick Kovarik/AFP/Getty
Bonhomie: President Macron and President Trump in Paris on Thursday. Photograph: Patrick Kovarik/AFP/Getty

Macron’s most egregious error was to appear to equate the flirtation between Trump’s entourage and Putin’s Russia, and Russian interference in the US presidential campaign, with the need to talk to Putin.

He wouldn’t interfere in US domestic politics, Macron said when asked about the scandal raging in Washington, DC. “What a good answer that is!” Trump interrupted.

“I do believe that both of us have direct relationships with Russia,” Macron continued. “This relationship is very important. We have a lot of disagreements with Russia. But in the current environment, especially in the Middle East, it’s necessary to work together, to exchange information . . . to try to build solutions . . . I think it’s important that both of us have direct contact with President Putin.”

Trump dodged the question about the meeting on June 9th, 2016, between his son Donald Trump jnr, his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and his then campaign director, Paul Manafort, with Natalia Veselnitskaya, a Russian lawyer who is close to the Kremlin and who, according to the Trump campaign intermediary Rob Goldstone, had promised dirt on Hillary Clinton.

The Paris trip offered the US president an escape from the scandal in Washington, and the possibility that Macron’s popularity would rub off on him

Except for that one awkward question at the press conference, the Paris trip offered the US president an escape from the scandal in Washington, and the possibility that Macron’s popularity would rub off on him.

According to French media, the Élysée Palace promised Trump there would be no significant street demonstrations against him, like those that marred the G20 summit in Hamburg. The state of emergency makes it easier for the French government to control Paris.

Trump gave up the idea of a visit to the UK after the “Stop Trump” coalition threatened mass demonstrations and John Bercow, the conservative speaker of the House of Commons, said he did not want Trump to address parliament.

Trump’s capricious behaviour, renunciation of the climate agreement and protectionist policies have almost made him a pariah among his peers. For most of the past century the mantle of leader of the free world was reserved for US presidents. It seems to have fallen on Macron to assume that role, by default.

Macron and Trump constantly referred to symbolism and history. Trump waxed syrupy over Lafayette and “the immortal bonds of culture, destiny and liberty that unite us”.

Earlier in the day Macron held a press conference with Chancellor Angela Merkel. They announced plans for the first Franco-German fighter aircraft, eurodrones and greater consolidation of the euro zone.

Macron and Trump spoke vaguely of seizing control of the chaos in the Middle East. But it felt like theatrics. For the time being, dynamism clearly lies with Macron and Merkel.

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