They’d had dinner and attended a party together, shared many a bise, hug, and firm, if not too firm, handshake. The bromance had been going well. And yet, the break-up was inevitable. On April 25th, during a speech addressing the entire United States Congress, French president Emmanuel Macron argued against many of President Donald Trump’s policy positions.
Repeatedly, Macron’s words brought Democrats, applauding thunderously and cheering, to their feet. Republicans often stayed seated, and viewers watching on C-SPAN spotted, behind Macron, House Speaker Paul Ryan leaning to whisper something to Vice President Mike Pence. When the speech ended, Macron stepped down from the podium to the right, where Democrats waited to meet him. He shook hands, mostly with members from the liberal side of the aisle, for over 11 minutes.
Traditionally, this type of speech by a member of a foreign government before American senators and representatives includes mostly topics on which there is a consensus. The French president deviated from custom, directly addressing disagreements between him and Trump in several areas.
“I believe in building a better future for our children which requires offering them a planet that is still habitable in 25 years,” stated Macron, bringing legislators from both sides of the aisle to the feet to applaud. For Republicans, this was a false luring into a sense of security. From there on out, Macron was critical. “Some people think that securing current industries and their jobs is more urgent than transforming our economies to meet the global challenge of climate change.” It was a remark that stirred Democrats to applause and irked Republicans, who have been undoing regulations that protect the environment. “Let’s face it,” he said, “There is no planet B.” Democrats laughed and applauded; Ryan whispered something to Pence. “On this issue, it may happen we have disagreements, like in all families,” continued Macron. “In the long run, we will have to face the same realities.” And, the kicker — “I am sure, one day, the United States will come back and join the Paris Agreement.” Democrats went wild.
Macron, like Trump, was elected during a nationalist wave. Macron, however, has been working to beat nationalism down, while Trump has been fueling it. “I do not share the fascination for new strong powers, the abandonment of freedom, and the illusion of nationalism,” Macron declared, to enthusiastic bipartisan applause. He warned of nationalism undermining the “liberal order we built after World War II,” and cautioned that “other powers, with a stronger strategy and ambition” would fill the void with their own new world order. “We will not let the rampaging work of extreme nationalism shake a world full of hopes for greater prosperity.”
Macron’s advocating for multilateralism couldn’t be seen as anything other than an explicit rebuke of Trump’s hatred of it, considering the sheer number of times Macron said “multilateralism” while urging Franco-American cooperation in the face of global threats.
“We can build the 21st century world order based on a new breed of multilateralism based on a more effective, accountable, and results-oriented multilateralism, a strong multilateralism. … The United States is the one who invented this multilateralism, you are the one now who has to help preserve and reinvent it. This strong multilateralism will not outshine our national cultures and national identities. It is exactly the other way around. A strong multilateralism will allow our cultures and identities to be respected, to be protected, and to flourish freely together. … This strong multilateralism is the unique option compatible with our nations, our cultures, our identities.”
After acknowledging that there are “abusers” of globalized capitalism, Macron denounced Trump’s decision to start trade wars. “Commercial war is not the proper answer to these evolutions,” he asserted, eliciting an enthusiastic response from Democrats while Ryan and Pence remained still behind Macron. “I believe we can write answers to legitimate concerns regarding trade imbalances, excess and over capacities, by negotiating through the World Trade Organization and building cooperative solutions. We wrote these rules, we should follow them.” Democrats, once again, rose to their feet.
One area of agreement between Macron and Republicans is the necessity to stop Iran from gaining nuclear capabilities: “Iran shall never possess any nuclear weapons. Not now. Not in five years. Not in 10 years. Never,” declared Macron. However, the Republican applause essentially stopped there because Macron favors the Iran nuclear deal, the JCPOA, while Republicans oppose it. Trump is considering decertifying the deal in the coming weeks. “We signed [the JCPOA] at the initiative of the United States. We signed it, both the United States and France,” he argued. And while Macron acknowledged that the agreement may not address all concerns, he insisted that it shouldn’t be abandoned without another deal in place. “That’s why France will not leave the JCPOA, because we signed it,” declared the French president, eliciting applause from Democrats.
And yet, after all his Trump-policy bashing, Macron ended his speech by emphasizing the Franco-American friendship. “On April the 25th, 1960, General de Gaulle affirmed in this chamber that nothing was as important to France as the reason, the resolution, the friendship, of the great people of the United States. Fifty-eight years later, to this very day, I come here to convey the warmest feelings of the French nation and to tell you that our people cherish the friendship of the American people with as much intensity as ever,” declared Macron, sparking a round of bipartisan applause. “This is a time of determination and courage. What we cherish is at stake, what we love is in danger. We have no choice but to prevail. And together, we shall prevail.” It was a call to arms that brought both sides of the aisle to their feet.
“Vive les États-Unis, long live the friendship between France and United States of America, vive la République, vive la France, vive notre amitié, merci!”
The speech over, and Macron gone back to France, the question on everyone’s mind is, now that Macron has denounced most of Trump’s policies, will his relationship (bromance) with President Trump be affected? “The most likely result is that the American president won’t pay attention to what Macron was trying to say — indeed, that he won’t even understand that he has been so openly challenged,” said Washington Post columnist Anne Applebaum. “And that may have been the point, for Macron’s speech will be perfectly understood in France, in Europe, and even in the United States (at least outside the White House).”
Featured image: Stock Photos from Drop of Light/Shutterstock