You are currently browsing the daily archive for July 14, 2017.

On Thursday, July 13, 2017 one of the panellists on RMC (French talk radio) on the morning show Les Grandes Gueules (The Big Mouths) said that Emmanuel Macron is ‘president by default’.

He added that anyone who was good for the country was eliminated electorally, which is not the same as saying Macron has the nation’s support.

The panel were talking about Macron’s reforms of the government. However, no one knows the specific plans.

Macron said he wanted to ‘maintain the rhythm’ of reforms to reassure the ‘confidence of the French people and investors’:

Pleasant words, but where is the substance? What exactly does he want to do?

One thing that is clear: Macron has delusions of grandeur that have surprised the French since he became president in May.

They were mystified that he chose to welcome Russian president Vladimir Putin at Versailles on Monday, May 29. Does Macron consider himself a king, they wondered? Why not use the presidential palace, L’Élysée like the other presidents?

On Monday, July 3, he returned to Versailles to address both houses of French government: the national assembly and the senate. This is not unheard of, but it is only the fourth time since 1948 that a French president has chosen this venue (François Hollande being a recent example):

Breitbart explains that French presidents convene their parliament at Versailles only in times of crisis.

In 2015, François Hollande called a meeting about ISIS.

In 2017, Macron used the venue to assert his supremacy (emphases mine):

Summoning over 900 politicians from both houses of the French parliament to a rare Congress at the palace of Louis XIV – the ‘Sun King’ – in Versailles, he threatened to overrule lawmakers with a referendum if they try to frustrate the “reforms” he wishes to impose on the legislature.

Macron might consider himself more than a president:

The GQ article from May 9, shortly after Macron’s victory over Marine Le Pen, gushed:

He’s an incredibly centrist figure

Really? To anyone looking at Macron seriously, he’s Hollande’s and Merkel’s pet, their protégé.

GQ wrote about and excerpted the new president’s thoughts from his new book Macron by Macron, co-authored by veteran French journalist Eric Fottorino.

On the subject of a king, Macron said there was a void in French politics:

“In French politics, this absence is the presence of a King, a King whom, fundamentally, I don’t think the French people wanted dead,” said Macron. “The Revolution dug a deep emotional abyss, one that was imaginary and shared: the King is no more!” According to Macron, since the Revolution France has tried to fill this void, most notably with Napoleon and then Charles de Gaulle, which was only partially successful. “The rest of the time,” said Macron, “French democracy does not manage to fill this void.”

Perhaps Macron intends to fill that void.

If so, he could be in trouble. I have never met a French person who wants royalty to return. That is because the notion of royalty opposes that of republican values.

With regard to reform, he said at Versailles that he would cut the number of MPs by a third, which would give the remaining ones more power. He also pledged to introduce proportional representation. Hmm.

Economically, Macron’s reforms look to favour France’s richest citizens. Hmm.

Shortly before convening the French congress at Versailles, the Élysée brushed off the press:

The announcement elicited this response:

That day, Macron opened up a new centre for French start-ups, Station F. It is, apparently, the largest of its kind in the world. The French president told the young entrepreneurs that they will run across people who succeed and those who have nothing. He added that those who have nothing never make the effort. A lively conversation took place on this Twitter thread. What did he mean? Are poor people nothing?

This is the thing. No one knows what Macron really means.

Then there was the kerfuffle about his official portrait:

The issue is that the presidential desk in the Salon Doré (Golden Salon) is, in reality, not in line with the window but off to the side of the room. The president’s back is to a fireplace. This short video from the Élysée shows Macron carefully positioning objects on his desk.

Clearly, he wants everyone looking at it to pick up a message about him. Around this time, he said that he saw his presidency as ‘Jupiterian’. Can you imagine if President Donald Trump had said that? They’d have whisked him off for psychiatric examination sooner than you could say ‘White House’.

Back to the portrait. The Financial Times provided this sycophantic interpretation:

The French view was more tongue-in-cheek:

On July 1, the New York Times wrote about the French presidential phenomenon:

Here are the best parts of the article, which, on the whole, gushes with approval:

PARIS — Is he Machiavelli, Bonaparte or de Gaulle? Emmanuel Macron wrote a thesis about the first, is often compared to the second and frequently cites the third.

That parlor game playing out in the French media, as France tries to figure out its new president, demonstrates one thing: Mr. Macron has already concentrated all the power, nearly by default

Mr. Macron believes France cannot be reformed, but instead is “a country that transforms itself, a country of revolution,” as he put it in his one newspaper interview, last week.

The ambitions are grandiose. His coming to power is “the beginning of a French renaissance and I hope a European one as well,” he said in the interview, with Le Figaro and other European newspapers. “A renaissance that will permit the rethinking of great national, European and international equilibriums.”

Many disagree with that interpretation.

Despite her questionable politics, Marine Le Pen was correct when she said at the final presidential debate:

“You are the heir of François Hollande,” scoffed nationalist rival Marine Le Pen during their head-to-head election debate. “We now call you Baby Hollande; Hollande Junior!”

She added that, whatever the outcome of the election, “France will be led by a woman: either me or Mrs. Merkel.”

Breitbart recapped how unimpressed Central European heads of state were with Macron at the NATO summit in May:

Efforts by the EU loyalist to strengthen his public standing by picking fights with the governments of Central Europe, who have been resolutely defiant in the face of attempts by Brussels to impose compulsory migrant quotas on them, have been less than successful.

Hungarian premier Viktor Orbán gently dismissed him as “a new boy” who had yet to find his feet.

Macron’s entrance wasn’t too encouraging, as he thought the best way to show friendship was to immediately kick Central European countries. This isn’t how we do things around here, but he’ll soon get to know his way around,” he added.

Then there was the handshake with Trump at the same meeting:

Posing as the EU’s champion against President Donald Trump has also backfired, with a pointed, public snub of the U.S. leader in favour of Angela Merkel and other Europeans at a NATO summit ending in embarrassment when the 70-year-old manhandled him with a powerful handshake.

Macron was clearly rattled by the exchange, granting a brief interview with journalists in order to emphasise that another handshake with President Trump – in which the Frenchman clung on for dear life – was a “moment of truth” in which he supposedly demonstrated that he “would not make small concessions, not even symbolic ones”.

The BBC reported:

Their first meeting on 25 May in Brussels was notable for a handshake which saw them grip each other’s hand so firmly that their knuckles turned white.

Mr Macron later said the handshake was “not innocent”.

No, probably not, because Macron studiously — and very obviously — tried to avoid President Trump. Trump was, I think, half serious, half jesting, which made ‘Jupiterian’ Macron look really weak:

So much, then, for this (possible) self-perception:

Soon after he was elected, Macron visited soldiers in Gao (Mali) who are fighting alongside French troops against militant rebels.

Then, at the G20 conference — July 7 and 8 — he made remarks about Africa. Once again, no one was quite sure what he meant.

The edited remarks are startling and sweeping:

Not surprisingly, Macron’s comments elicited a strong reaction:

All Africa reports that Macron made his statement in response to a journalist from the Ivory Coast:

Macron was answering a question from a Cote d’Ivoire journalist, who asked why there was no Marshall Plan for Africa (a huge block of U.S. economic aid for European countries after World War II).

Macron said much more than that, as All Africa’s journalist Michael Tantoh transcribed in his report. Macron’s remarks were still blunt, but he was trying to explain that the Marshall Plan was always intended as a temporary, short-lived means of assistance. Africa, he said, has too many problems to make a Marshall Plan, such as it was, possible:

For decades, Marshall plans for Africa have been promised and given. If it were that simple, you would have noticed it[s] results by now.  What are the problems in Africa? Failed states, complex democratic transitions, demographic transition, infrastructure, porous borders which poses a problems of security and regional coordination, drugs trafficking, arms trafficking, human trafficking, trafficking in cultural property and violent fundamentalism, Islamist terrorism. All these together creates difficulties in Africa.  At the same time, we have countries that are tremendously successful, with an extraordinary growth rate that makes people say that Africa is a land of opportunity.

He said much more. Perhaps he would have done better to clarify his comments. That said, he still favours aiding the continent, preferably through partnerships with first world nations, such as France:

It is a plan that must take into account our own commitments on all the projects that I have just mentioned, create better public and private partnerships and must be done in a much more regional, sometimes even national basis. That is the method that has been adopted and that is what we are doing everywhere we are committed.

To be fair to Macron, he reaffirmed helping the beleaguered continent.

More important for him is finding a solution to the grave economic and social problems that France currently faces.

By the time you read this, Emmanuel and Brigitte Macron will have hosted Donald and Melania Trump for a brief Bastille Day trip which was planned before either man ever took office. 2017 marks the centenary of the arrival of US troops in France during the Great War. The French government decided months ago to invite the American president — unknown then — to be present at the Bastille Day ceremony in Paris. More on that next week.


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