Absorbing the handholding—we were not party to anything so standoffish as handshakes here—the kisses, and the hugs, I thought of Paradise Lost: “They hand in hand with wand’ring steps and slow,/ Through DC took their solitary way.”
I quote from memory. Macron and Trump, Donald and Emmanuel: the state visit was nothing if not a bromance, at least in its pas de deux. I think it was in Ars amatoria that Ovid recommends that suitors take every opportunity to touch the objects of their interest. If you are sitting at the games with your date and a speck of dust—or dandruff—falls on her dress, flick it off with your hand. If no speck of dust falls, flick it off anyway. Then she’ll be perfect. She is perfect.
Here’s what we know. Donald Trump and Emmanuel Macron like each other. They have “chemistry.” Lafayette, Rochambeau, Yorktown: France is our oldest ally, etc., etc. A kiss on both cheeks, Donald. And there we were in 1918, in the early 1940s: France’s bacon saved not once but twice by us, the Yanks, thank you very much.
But this week’s meeting featured group dancing as well as the waltzes and fox trots. Macron went before the US Congress to lament the unsoundness of his friend on green fizz—Donald should “make our planet great again” by affirming, ahem, the Paris Climate Accords. Then there was the Iran nuclear sell out—I mean “deal.” For reasons I do not quite follow, Macron seems to favor that aid-to-nations-seeking-
Still. Macron was sound on terrorism—he doesn’t like it—and he several times affirmed Trump’s legitimacy as a president. He was elected against expectations but, hey, so was I, Macron reasoned. The people spoke: we, Donald and I, are whom they spoke for, get over it.
Good advice. So why did Macron avail himself of that angry back-number John Lewis? We’re supposed to believe that Lewis purchased a lifetime indemnity back in the early 1960s when he was beat up because he supported the civil rights movement and associated himself with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Since 1987, Lewis has had his lips sewn to the public teat via the 5th District of the moderately great state of Georgia as its member of Congress. He’s not the only one to be sure, but think about it: did the Founders think that a place in the House should be a public service or a sinecure? Take your time.
— Emmanuel Macron (@EmmanuelMacron) April 25, 2018
And while you are pondering that, ask yourself why the President of France thought it a good idea to engage in that embarrassing PDA with John Lewis, giving the old “icon” (you are not allowed to write about Lewis without using the word “icon” at least once, preferably in the phrase “civil-rights icon.”) Macron’s squeaks of political correctitude about “the environment” and the Mullahs before Congress was one thing, but his embrace—literally—of a man who describes President Trump as a “racist” and who said, shortly after his election, that “I don’t see the president-elect as a legitimate president,” well, that seems to me to betaking the farce a step, or several, too far. Maybe, adapting Feydeau, we should call it the Donald and Emmanuel show: Macron malgré-lui?
It’s my sense that the mainstream (i.e., the anti-Trump) press believes that Macron’s visit was a Gallic triumph and a blow for Trump. I think that’s wrong. Macron did well with his PR, no doubt—he’s against “killing the planet,” after all—but so did Trump. Melania shone in her impeccable organization of the state dinner. Everyone still hates ISIS and terrorists in general. And Frau Merkel and Mrs. May must be sitting by the telephone fretting. When will he (Trump, not Macron) call?
Putting Macron’s imitation of Joe “Hugger” Biden to one side, the Gallo-American fête was a sterling example of the art of the deal. It was “winning.” It wasn’t everything. It wasn’t perfect. But in the double-entry bookkeeping of international diplomacy, the net positives for President Trump far outweighed the negatives.