Monday, July 17, 2017

July 17, 2017--Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité

People are wondering why French President Emmanuel Macron invited Donald Trump to join him at last week's Bastille Day events. After all they had virtually arm wrestled when they first met at the recent NATO meeting.

Macron was said to be fuming that Trump withdrew the U.S. from the Paris Agreement. In part, because the environmental accord was negotiated in Paris, in France, and the French, it is said, can be chauvinistic.

But I think Macron is too smart to take such things personally. In fact, he may turn out to be about the smartest European leader. Which takes us back to Trump in Paris.

Yes, the French were our first allies, substantially funding our Revolutionary War and sending a large part of their fleet to the colonies to engage the English directly. Yes, this year marks the 100th anniversary of our joining France and England and other allies in World War I. But this is an insufficient reason for Macron, seemingly spur-of-the-moment, to invite Trump to return to Paris just a few days after he was in Europe for the G-20 meeting. He knows how Trump hates France (ask his friend "Jim") and not sleeping in his own bed.

But in spite of that Trump accepted, thinking better to be in Paris than the White House while his scandal-ridden presidency crumbles around him. Recall, Nixon made a triumphant tour of the Middle East to get away from the impeachment process that was closing in on him.

This helps explain why Trump agree to go to Paris. But what about Macron? What was his motivation? Was he just feeling sorry for Donald and thought that a three-star dinner (without wine) would perk him up?

I suspect none of the above.

Little reported at the time but shortly after Macron was unexpectedly elected (like Trump managing to best Hillary), he was quoted as saying that the one thing the French miss is not having a monarch. He implied he might be available to fill that role. And thus he and his wife moved into the Elysee Palace about half an hour after winning the election and he immediately started reviewing French troops. He had the martial music, strut, and salute all rehearsed. And he pulled it off, looking as if he was doing this all his life.

Not quiet Charles de Gaulle-level posturing, but not bad for a diminutive 39 year-old who never served in the military. Recall that General de Gaulle led the victorious allied troops into Paris after the Normandy invasion and the retreat of the Germans. He pushed his way to the front of the line of liberators (sound familiar?) even though the French had done very little to bring about this victory.

It may be snarky to mention, but during the Second World War many said the French were better at surrendering than vanquishing. The Resistance significantly aside. So de Gaulle leading the allied liberators was a great act of political fake-news theater. (It didn't hurt that he looked as if he was seven-feet tall and had a wardrobe of great uniforms.)

So my guess is that Macron sees himself in the de Gaulle role. Leading France back to gloire and European leadership. With Angela Merkel, who everyone acknowledges is Europe's current leader, about to be elected to her 4th and likely final term as chancellor, who will succeed her is up for grabs. Macron is eager to step forward and if he can demonstrate that he is capable of maintaining a version of a close relationship with the United States, even with Trump as president, since we are, well, America, that would help his case.

Beyond Macron, who else looms as the de facto leader of the EU?

Then again, there's Putin. But . . .

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