With what should have been a simple and forgettable handshake, newly-elected French President Emmanuel Macron showed his intention to be a thorn in the side of U.S. President Donald Trump.
Meeting for the first time at the recent NATO summit in Brussels, Macron and Trump shook hands. Then, to the apparent consternation of Trump, Macron would not disengage and the handshake took on the quality of two boxers engaging in a pre-fight intimidation and stare down.
It was no accident. Macron later told a French newspaper that it was a “moment of truth” and showed his intention, going forward, to not make even the smallest concession to Trump.
Those were not empty words. After Trump withdrew the United States from the Paris climate accord, Macron took the audacious step of directly addressing the American people – in English. This unprecedented foray from a French president into U.S. politics clearly moves Macron to the head of the globalist and progressive class.
In his address to Americans, Macron said, “Climate change is one of the major issues of our time … it is global. Everyone is impacted and if we do nothing, our children will know a world of migrations, of wars, of shortage. A dangerous world.”
He characterized Trump’s decision to withdraw as a “mistake – both for the U.S. and for our planet” before issuing an open invitation: “To all scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs, responsible citizens who were disappointed by the decision of the president of the United States. I want to say that they will find in France a second homeland. I call on them: come and work here with us.”
He ended by adopting and modifying Trump’s own catchphrase: “Wherever we live, wherever we are, we all share the same responsibility: make our planet great again.”
Now, there’s nothing Americans like and appreciate more than being lectured and hectored by a foreign leader – particularly a French one – on how they manage and order their affairs. And try as one might, it’s hard to imagine many of Trump’s most ardent supporters trading their pork rinds and Mountain Dew for croissants and chardonnay – or loading their pickup trucks and moving from the hills of Kentucky to the Loire Valley.
Still, Macron’s laying out the welcome mat for disaffected and disillusioned citizens of the United States is certainly a bold move and an invitation that flies in the face of the kind of populism and nationalism that installed Trump in the Oval Office, or resulted in the Brexit vote a year ago in the United Kingdom.
It’s hard not to admire how the 39-year-old Macron came out swinging. And he may have been justified. After all, to be fair, a lot of Trump’s nascent policies could be characterized as based on myopic, misguided and misunderstood self-interest – fuelled by a stunning ignorance of history and geopolitics, instead of being sparked by keen insight, inspiration or imagination.
That’s a dangerous and potentially harmful landscape upon which to build if one views the issue of climate change as implicating all nations and people, no matter what the arbitrary boundaries on a map may say.
Make no mistake, the globe is implicated. When it comes to the environment and climate change, the Earth can’t be viewed as a patchwork quilt with all of us living happily in our own isolated squares. We are a flowing river of humanity, where there is a constant churn and ever-present swirling of cause and effect, of action and reaction, that implicates all who share this small and increasingly fragile planet. The actions of one affect the welfare of all.
True leaders are not by nature cautious. They’re prone to making bold statements and taking bold actions. They eschew diplomatic niceties and take the right path instead of the safe and secure one.
Only time will tell, but judging from his actions out of the gate, Macron may just prove to be such a leader – of the kind and character the world desperately needs now.
And wouldn’t it have been nice if that leader had been Prime Minister Justin Trudeau instead?
Gavin MacFadyen is a Canada-raised, U.S.-based writer and occasional lawyer. Blending insight and wit, he brings a unique perspective to the issues of the day.
The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.