Donald Trump was Emmanuel Macron’s guest of honor at the July 14 celebrations in Paris, and seems to have forgotten the advice of his friend “Jim.” The American president has fallen back in love with France. Advantage: Macron.
Macron hooked a big fish — Donald Trump — by using the bait that works best on the U.S. president: Flattery and respect; everything he is refused in the United States. The two heads of state also share common enemies. There is terrorism, of course, but also the media. Macron’s relationship with French journalists is almost as bad as Trump’s with The New York Times and CNN. Paris has become a diplomatic crossroads at which leaders fight for a seat (the Israeli prime minister was received two days after Trump). Macron certainly knows what he’s doing. He pulled out all the stops for the POTUS, organizing visits to Les Invalides and Napoleon’s tomb, dining on the second floor of the Eiffel Tower, and watching a military parade along the Champs-Elysées. As for the two first ladies, they visited Notre-Dame cathedral and enjoyed a river cruise on the Seine. Not a single cliché was missed.
Three incidents did however break with the all-too-perfect order of proceedings. And the first is so embarrassing I hesitate to mention it. Donald Trump greeted Brigitte Macron — who was wearing a Louis Vuitton dress — before looking her up and down as if he were buying livestock and declaring “She’s in such a great physical shape, beautiful.” This statement is just as shocking in France as it is in the United States, but the French first lady handled her emotions to perfection.
The second odd event was culinary: Macron invited his American counterpart — a connoisseur of fried chicken and overcooked steaks — to have dinner at Le Jules Verne, Alain Ducasse’s Michelin-starred restaurant. Guests should expect to pay between 190 and 250 euros per person for the meal, and 120 euros for the wine pairing. The Belgian press immediately mocked the operation by publishing a (fake) check for 154 953 euros — including 24 euros for two Cokes!
The third incident occurred at the end of the parade on the Champs-Elysées, when the military fanfare switched from playing its traditional music to a freestyle performance of pieces by French electro duo Daft Punk. Trump seemed stupefied, while Macron laughed like a kid who had played a funny prank.
Macron did finish the weekend on a successful note by obtaining a sort of renunciation from Trump, who is now considered rejoining the Paris Agreement on climate change. That is, if he doesn’t forget.