Lengthy handshakes, warm embraces, cheek kisses and even a bit of grooming.
Emmanuel Macron and Donald Trump’s bromance seemed to truly blossom on Tuesday. But for all the public display of affection between the two leaders in Washington, back in France, the reaction was a typical Gallic shrug and a certain dose of cynicism both on the streets of Paris and in the loftier circles of France’s elites.
“It’s just a battle of egos! Two great narcissists who adore themselves, they love themselves. It’s all a communications strategy,” Michel Onfray, one of France’s most famous philosophers, told CNN.
Onfray said the real issues, like the Iran nuclear deal, could not be solved if egos and communications startegies mattered more than substance.
The real problem, he said, was not only the influence of Iran in the region and the battle between Sunnis and Shias, but the deeper question of how an age-old Persian culture dealt with a Gulf region built on a very different history.
The issues involved, he said, deserved real diplomacy and real thought, which was not, he believed, what they had received.
On the Champs-Élysées it was also hard to find much more than cynicism about the images and what they had meant. Thirty-year-old Martin said the various marks of affection between the two presidents were merely “anecdotal” and that they “acted as a distraction from what was really at stake: Iran.”
On the political front, what emerged from the White House on Tuesday was taken a little more seriously, with the leader of the far left, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, condemning Macron’s rapprochement to Trump. He tweeted about the “terrible aligning of Macron on Trump’s position. In Iran, war on the horizon. Macron is a danger for peace.”
There is a sense in Europe that beyond the images and the all too obvious displays of affection, there has been little movement on the part of the American President when it comes to actual policy.
In fact, the one who seems to have moved the most – and in particular on the Iran deal – appears to be the man who’d gone to Washington in the hope of wooing Donald Trump into submission.
High hopes had been pinned on Europe’s “Trump whisperer” to take his state visit to DC as an opportunity to raise issues on which Trump’s public statements had caused concern for European leaders: ranging from trade to Syria. But Trump doesn’t seem to have budged an inch. As France’s former interior minister, Matthias Fekl, told French radio station RFI: Macron’s charm offensive “hasn’t helped move the big topics forward by one iota”.