World leaders have feted the new US President in Saudi Arabia, France and Turkey
Some experts however fear Trump's head is turned a little too easily
Presidents Donald Trump and Emmanuel Macron just didn’t want to let one another go.
The young, globalist French leader and the “America First” commander-in-chief, who are opposites in many ways, put on an extravagant show of friendship Friday on Bastille Day on the Champs-Élysées.
The highlight of a chummy two-day visit was an extraordinary, on-the-walk handshake across the cobblestones, that included multiple mutual pats on the back of the hand and shoulder taps. At one point, the 30-second embrace drew in Macron’s wife, Brigitte, leaving first lady Melania Trump standing slightly awkwardly to the side.
The unusual show of personal chemistry in Paris might just mean Macron, 39, and Trump, 71, just got along famously.
But Macron also clearly has a plan by making such an effusive show of friendship toward Trump, even though the US leader is unpopular in Europe and dismayed the French government by pulling out of the Paris climate accord.
It reflects the French leader’s desire to ensure the United States does not totally divorce itself from the rest of the West.
And the charm offensive is the latest sign that some world leaders think the best way to get to Trump is not to rebuke or lecture him, but to flatter him and show him respect.
So France laid on sumptuous gastronomy, in a restaurant billed as “infused with dreams and magic” inside the Eiffel Tower. They provided a tour of Napoleon’s tomb and made Trump guest of honor at the Bastille Day parade with marching bands, tanks and flyovers.
On Friday, the fast growing bond between Macron and Trump was on display in a prolonged handshake, as each man patted the other’s shoulders at the end of the day’s celebrations.
As he wrapped up his trip, Trump showed how much he appreciated the hospitality, tweeting a picture of he and Macron, heads close together, deep in conversation as they watched the parade with the Arc de Triomphe in the background.
“It was a great honor to represent the United States at the magnificent #BastilleDay parade. Congratulations President @EmmanuelMacron,” Trump wrote.
It’s entirely possible that Trump and Macron have developed a genuine bond. But Trump’s recent foreign trips to other nations in urgent need of US support have seen similar displays of pomp.
In Saudi Arabia, the President found his image projected on the wall of his hotel, got the reddest of red carpet welcomes, a sword dance, and went home with a gold-chained necklace bearing the kingdom’s highest honor.
“Words do not do justice to the grandeur of this remarkable place and the incredible hospitality you have shown us from the moment we arrived,” Trump told Saudi King Salman.
Donald Trump in Paris
In Poland, the drill involved busing in a friendly crowd to cheer at Trump’s campaign-style lines embedded in a major foreign policy speech, countering ideas that Europe abhors the new US President.
“It’s a majestic nation, it really is, it’s a spectacular place, some of the most beautiful sights,” Trump said.
The first leader to notice the President’s appreciation for exaggerated shows of respect might have been Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
Even before Trump was inaugurated, he showed up at Trump Tower with a gold-plated golf driver – and has since carved out a good relationship with the President.
For sure, most countries tend to turn up the pageantry when Air Force One swoops into town – no matter who is commander-in-chief.
But Macron, Polish President Andrzej Duda and the Saudi royals went the extra mile for a president who knows how to put on a show.
It’s not hard to work out why.
The Saudis fretted for years over their relationship with the Obama administration and its pursuit of a nuclear deal with their arch-enemy Iran. Now they have a new friend in the Oval Office.
Duda’s right-wing government shares some of the populist impulses of the Trump administration and suspicion of bureaucracy in the EU. It has tried to impress on Trump the need to keep an eye on Russia’s territorial maneuverings in the East.
Macron, the rising star of European politics, is playing a subtle diplomatic gambit.
While not disguising his dismay at Trump’s exit from the Paris climate accord, he’s trying to bolster his own image as a statesman and set himself up as a bridge between Trump and Europe.
Merkel goes in the other direction
Flattery isn’t everyone’s game, though.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel tried to make a connection with Trump – but her body language alongside the President in Washington was awkward, with the two famously not shaking hands in front of cameras in the Oval Office.
Merkel invited his daughter Ivanka to Germany, seeking a channel to the mercurial President.
But after Trump’s first visit to Europe in May, Merkel warned that the continent could no longer totally rely on the US following his lukewarm remarks about NATO.
And following Trump’s pullout from the Paris climate accord, Merkel’s husband had arranged for spouses at the G20 in Hamburg to visit a climate change research lab. (Melania Trump was unable to attend due to protests that heightened security in the city.)
Worry about backlash?
Some leaders have more to consider when feting the unpopular US President than others.
The Saudis, with their iron rule, don’t have to worry about a backlash.
Macron, thanks to decisive presidential and parliamentary election wins, is the most secure French president in years.
But Merkel is running for re-election in September and must keep an eye on her her left flank, where hostility toward Trump is intense.