Europe

Macron’s Washington trip is pure theater

This is really a gigantic photo opportunity for both presidents, manufactured news, signifying nothing

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Emmanuel Macron (Getty)
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President Macron has landed in Washington with his fleet of jets to spend the next few days in procession across the capital with an enormous entourage in attendance.

"It is unclear to many of us why Macron gets Biden’s first state visit," says my man in the Washington punditry. "Also unclear why Mme and I were not invited to the dinner," he adds.

Macron was met at the airport by Vice President Kamala Harris whom Macron will possibly not have listened to too attentively and was whisked to Blair House across the street from the White House,...

President Macron has landed in Washington with his fleet of jets to spend the next few days in procession across the capital with an enormous entourage in attendance.

“It is unclear to many of us why Macron gets Biden’s first state visit,” says my man in the Washington punditry. “Also unclear why Mme and I were not invited to the dinner,” he adds.

Macron was met at the airport by Vice President Kamala Harris whom Macron will possibly not have listened to too attentively and was whisked to Blair House across the street from the White House, where he shall be staying in some splendor — although a certain lowering of the standard of living is inevitable when one leaves the Elysée.

Twelve months ago Macron was having a tantrum and recalling the French ambassador to Washington in the argument about submarines, but all this is now forgotten for a modern-day field of a cloth of gold in which Macron will preen with his new best friend Joe Biden.

This all rather supposes that Franco-American relations are hunky-dory when they are really not, but it costs little to pretend otherwise.

The French commentariat is already pronouncing that the new American special relationship is with France not Britain which recedes into the distance hobbled by Brexit, economic and political crisis.

Gérard Arnaud, the grandest and possibly most pompous commentator of all, has supposedly declared: “France is the favored interlocutor because it is the only big [European] country with a global, independent policy.” Whatever that means. Perhaps something has been lost in translation. Arnaud, François Hollande’s ambassador to Washington, said, “We got this role a bit by default. The traditional British ally has been lost since 2016 in the turbulence of Brexit and Germany is still refusing to take the responsibilities of a big power.”

He might be right but hard to avoid a much simpler analysis that this is really a gigantic photo opportunity for both presidents, manufactured news, signifying nothing. World leaders have been jetting around the world for weeks and now this. Why?

Nothing is going to be more Potemkin-village-like than Macron popping down on a side trip to New Orleans in his jets, perhaps under the illusion that people speak French there.

For Macron the trip is a brilliant diversion from a rough domestic political season, costing him nothing and in which he is able to reward the senior coterie of French oligarchs with tickets to the show and his media yet another exciting trip.

Among those along for the ride are Bernard Arnault (LVMH), Xavier Niel (Iliad), Patrick Pouyanné (Total), Rodolphe Saadé (CMA-CGM) and Luc Rémont, who’s just taken over at EDF. Also the actor Claude Lelouch, dancer and choreographer Benjamin Millepied, Franco-American writer Douglas Kennedy and astronauts Thomas Pesquet and Sophie Adenot. Ministers Bruno Le Maire (Economy and Finance), Catherine Colonna (foreign affairs), Sébastien Lecornu (defense) and Sylvie Retailleau (higher education) have also been invited along, presumably so the president can keep an eye on them.

Tomorrow, all these personalities will be received on the south lawn of the White House by Joe and Jill Biden and given a state dinner. Tickets are hot, hot, hot among the Washington crowd.

Macron’s vanity and sense of stagecraft will be indulged more or less continually with anthems sung, canons fired, troops passing in review. Private talks will be held in the Oval Office, followed by a press conference.

Cut to the hagiographic profiles of Macron by the New York TimesWashington Post, et al. Why don’t we have wonderful leaders like Macron, is the inevitable theme. But what has he actually delivered to deserve any of this? It suits Biden and Macron equally to imagine they are solving the world’s problems together. But the trade disagreements, defense disaccord, Russia conflicts and energy disagreements are not easily going to be resolved. Still it’s a grand distraction for both of them.

This article was originally published on The Spectator’s UK website.