Macron Resists 'America First' Speech 04/26 06:16
French President Emmanuel Macron drew sharp contrasts with President Donald
Trump's worldview Wednesday, laying out a firm vision of global leadership that
rejects "the illusion of nationalism" in a candid counterweight to Trump's
appeals to put "America first."
WASHINGTON (AP) -- French President Emmanuel Macron drew sharp contrasts
with President Donald Trump's worldview Wednesday, laying out a firm vision of
global leadership that rejects "the illusion of nationalism" in a candid
counterweight to Trump's appeals to put "America first."
In the spotlight of a speech to the U.S. Congress, Macron was courteous but
firm, deferential but resolute as he traced the lines of profound division
between himself and Trump on key world issues: climate change, trade and the
Iran nuclear deal.
A day after the French leader had put on a show of warmth and brotherly
affection for Trump at the White House, his blunt speech prizing engagement
over isolationism reinforced the French leader's emerging role as a top
defender of the liberal world order.
"We can choose isolationism, withdrawal and nationalism. This is an option.
It can be tempting to us as a temporary remedy to our fears," Macron said. "But
closing the door to the world will not stop the evolution of the world. It will
not douse but inflame the fears of our citizens."
Issuing a bleak warning, he urged against letting "the rampaging work of
extreme nationalism shake a world full of hopes for greater prosperity."
It was a marked shift from the simpatico Macron of only a day earlier during
his state visit at the White House. In his first year as France's president,
Macron has carefully cultivated as close a relationship to Trump as any world
leader can boast. But addressing a joint meeting of Congress --- an honor
granted only occasionally to leaders of close U.S. allies --- Macron confronted
his differences with Trump head-on.
As Trump weighs pulling out of the 2015 Iran accord, Macron made clear that
France will not follow his lead.
"We signed it at the initiative of the United States. We signed it, both the
United States and France," Macron said. "That is why we cannot say we should
get rid of it like that."
Macron later told French reporters that he has no "inside information" on
Trump's decision on the Iran deal but noted that it's clear the U.S. president
"is not very much eager to defend it."
Macron saved some of his most pointed comments during the speech on Trump
administration policy on climate change, implicitly lamenting the president's
moves to withdraw from the global emissions pact reached in Paris. Macron said
humans are "killing our planet" and added: "Let us face it: There is no Planet
"On this issue, it may happen we have disagreements between the United
States and France. It may happen, like in all families," Macron said. "But
that's for me a short-term disagreement."
It was an allusion not to an impending Trump about-face, but to the prospect
of America choosing a different path under a successor, whoever that may prove
to be. Asked by French reporters about his comments later during a visit to the
Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, Macron said with a smile that he doesn't
expect Trump to rejoin the Paris accord but does expect that America will.
Macron's hourlong speech to Congress, delivered in English, provoked obvious
delight from congressional Democrats, who erupted repeatedly in cheers and
standing ovations for the visiting Frenchman --- a contrast to the mostly
silent reaction from Republicans in the House chamber. To some, it was an
ironic reminder that more than a year after being walloped by Trump in the
election, Democrats have yet to coalesce behind either a cohesive message or a
messenger, still plaintively searching for the kind of energetic, fresh-faced
leader that Macron represents.
For Macron, the exuberant reception may have been equally ironic. At home,
Macron does not enjoy the same level of applause or enthusiasm. A centrist in
France, he's currently criticized more from the left than the right, notably
for ending France's famed worker protection, and he's often derided as the
president of the rich.
Still, his soaring speech to Congress and closely watched visit to the
United States have buttressed the notion that Macron, more than any other world
leader, now carries the torch for the rules-based international system of
freedoms, free markets and democratic governance that Western nations have
championed since World War II.
Trump's positions on trade and overseas obligations have chipped away at
America's position as the spokesman for that movement. And German Chancellor
Angela Merkel, seen in recent years as the inheritor of that role, has faded
somewhat amid domestic political challenges in her country.
That France sees itself as uniquely equipped to help fill that void seemed
evident as Macron called for communal action to address "urgent" threats to
what he called fundamental values.
"Today, the international community needs to step up our game and build the
21st century world order," he said.
It wasn't all criticism from Macron. He sought to showcase the historic bond
between the U.S. and France, touting the two allies' "constant attachment to
freedom and democracy." Yet he also mentioned "fake news," a point of
contention between Trump and others, and warned that lies disseminated online
are threatening freedoms worldwide.
In friendly fashion, he recounted trans-Atlantic links from the earliest
days of the United States, Macron talked about a meeting between Ben Franklin
and the French philosopher Voltaire, "kissing each other's cheeks."
In an apparent reference to his affectionate rapport with Trump this week,
Macron mused: "It can remind you of something."