PARIS — France’s Emmanuel Macron left Washington looking like a superstar — whether or not he changed President Donald Trump’s mind on staying in Syria, how to contain Iran or anything at all.
Macron upped his global status by standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the American president amid all the pageantry of a state visit. Then he attacked Trump’s policies head-on in a speech to Congress, and defended his own vision of a globalist world order.
And he wrapped up the trip by rolling up his sleeves and stunning Georgetown students by telling them: “You don’t always have to play by the rules.
“That’s bulls—,” he added.
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Now, back to the reality of fixing France. After blow-by-blow coverage of Macron’s Washington trip for three days, the French media turned quickly to domestic issues upon his return Thursday — damaging train strikes, crime-ridden housing projects, lagging school results.
The overall French verdict on his trip? “He passed the test,” said RTL radio commentator Olivier Mazerolle. Le Parisien said ultimately “nothing budged” in the two president’s disputes over the Middle East or climate change.
The public intimacy between the two men — including Trump’s out-of-nowhere comment about Macron’s dandruff — drew some online ridicule. But French attention quickly pivoted to the substance of the visit.
Macron defended his strategy of befriending Trump even as other leaders see him as a danger to the international world order. It’s part of his outreach strategy with world leaders from Russian President Vladimir Putin to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, and his argument that engaging with people like Trump is more productive than snubbing them.
After Macron criticized Trump policies in his speech to Congress, there’s always a risk that Trump could turn against him in a nasty tweet. But after the speech, Macron insisted that their relationship “on a personal and national level is excellent.”
Macron’s spotlight-grabbing, ceremonial state visit is likely to contrast with German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s lower-profile working visit to Washington on Friday. She’s expected to focus on changing Trump’s mind on trade and the Iran nuclear deal and discussing other hard policy issues.