Wednesday, April 25, 2018

France and U.S. Forge New 'Special Relationship' with State Visit Triumph

Reagan had Margaret Thatcher, Trump has Macron!

When Winston Churchill left office in 1955 he warned his colleagues to "never be separated from the Americans." For decades the "special relationship" between the United Kingdom and what Churchill called "the Great Republic" was a hallmark of diplomacy between great powers. Later in the 20th Century, the ideological soul match between UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and President Ronald Reagan were a further demonstration of that bond. But now, Britain has been cast into the shade by the personal diplomatic tour de force of French President Emmanuel Macron during his state visit to Washington, DC. The first state visit of the Trump era.

Macron and Trump displayed an unmistakable 'relation sp├ęciale' on a personal level rarely seen among world leaders. Throughout the visit there were reminders that France was America's first ally and the long history our two nations have shared. Macron even took a slight dig at the British by pointing out in his toast at the state dinner how wonderful it was to be in the White House calling it a "legendary place" and reminding his host "This White House full of history that the British burned down in 1815." The French President has made it clear he does not share the British reticence about embracing Trump and Macron clearly relished the role.

Macron explains the foundation for his unusual friendship with Trump:
“We have a very special relationship because both of us are probably the maverick of the systems on both sides,” Macron said. “I think President Trump’s election was unexpected in your country and probably my election was unexpected in my country. And we are not part of the classical political system.”
Throughout the visit those words "special relationship" came up again and again.

A state visit brings a flurry of words and images. I've selected a few to share. On the first day of the visit the leaders and their spouses planted a tree, a gift from President Macron, on the White House lawn. The sapling came from Belleau Wood, the site of a battle in World War I in which more than 9,000 American soldiers died.

Next it was off for dinner at Mount Vernon, home of George Washington, aboard Marine One.

On Tuesday, the official welcome ceremony at the White House is a time for pageantry and speeches. Behind the scenes, meetings are taking place to address key issues.


The warmth between the two men was obvious as they left the White House balcony at the end of the welcome ceremony and later as they went to the Oval Office.

At their joint press conference:

TRUMP: "I like him a lot."
Their personal affection was on display in this joking moment in the Oval Office when Trump pretended to remove dandruff from Macron's suit:

TRUMP: We do have a very special relationship.... he's perfect!
The Washington Post put together a video montage. Macron is one handsy guy. But in a good way!

State Dinner

After the welcome ceremony the highlight of the visit is a state dinner. Trump choose to dispense with Obama's tent that was erected on the lawn so Barack and Michelle could party with Hollywood celebrities and choose the more intimate, formal and historic setting of the White House state dining room. But first, another welcome and more photos:

First Lady Melania Trump selected the Clinton china

Back to the bromance with the Toasts (text.)

The First Lady Competition

While Emmanuel and Donald were busy with meetings, First Lady Melania took France's First Lady Brigitte Macron to the National Gallery. Fashions of the two were compared, two women in white, but a writer at the Daily Mail paid special attention to the footwear.

Macron Addresses Joint Session of Congress

House Speaker Paul Ryan invited President Macron to address a joint meeting of both the House and Senate. It's a rare honor and as Ryan points out “The first foreign leader to address Congress was Marquis de Lafayette, the French general whose heroism during the Revolutionary War earned him honorary American citizenship."

In Macron's speech he didn't shy away from expressing his differences with Trump on issues like climate change or trade. And once more, he alluded to the "very special relationship."

The trip was a triumph for Macron and for Trump. Both affirmed the historic alliance of France and the United States while demonstrating warmth on a personal level that can only lead to better solutions to the challenges we face together.

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