With the bises (a kiss on both cheeks), the gushing praise, and the endless handshakes, the complicit relationship between Emmanuel Macron and Donald Trump has inspired countless reactions from the American media.
“The couple seemed happy to be together again,” joked the New York Times, going so far as to describe the French president’s visit to Washington as a “bromance” between Macron and Trump. The U.S. daily found that “their body language went beyond the usual respectful handshakes” and showed a more “intimate” relationship. The paper also wondered if it was all part of “Macron’s diplomatic strategy,” or perhaps an attempt by Trump to “dominate his guest.”
From the moment Macron stepped out of the limousine on April 23, the two presidents embraced each other affectionately. “Get a room!” laughed one journalist from CNN, before adding, “Actually they did: The Oval Office.” The complicity between the two men was also felt in the terms and expressions they used. Trump referred to a “special relationship”, “friendship,” and “common goals” when speaking with his French counterpart.
“Trump and Macon can’t stop touching each other,” remarked the Washington Post in its piece on this “histoire d’amour” (written in French in the article). The paper sees the numerous handshakes that have punctuated the various encounters between the two leaders since their elections as a “reflection of their relationship.” But their passive-aggressive behavior and “alpha game of one-upmanship” mean that, despite their good personal relationship, their opinions remain totally opposed on the most sensitive issues.
Fumbling aside, did the apparent closeness translate into any real political impact? Writing in the New Yorker, Robin Wright asked “Did Macron just charm Trump into compromising on Iran?” She went on to highlight the changes in the U.S. president’s stance. Previously opposed to any form of agreement on Iran’s nuclear energy, Trump suggested there was a possibility of a compromise following his meeting with Macron. “For a man who has few friends among foreign leaders — and often ignores the advice they offer — Trump may have met a moderating influence in Macron,” she wrote.
However, not every media outlet enjoyed the Franco-American idyll. Fox News reported on “strange handshakes” and went on to list the areas of disagreement such as Iran, customs tariffs on steel and aluminum, and the fight against climate change — topics that Macron addressed in his speech before the U.S. Congress on April 25. The website Politico shared the same opinion, stating that “behind the hugs, kisses, and hand-holding, Trump offered few actual concessions to France’s policy agenda.”