Sunday, July 30, 2017

Emmanuel Macron - New Leader of the Free World?

With Donald Trump alienating America's allies right and left and even South Korea saying it's more concerned with Trump's erratic and unhinged behavior than that of the leader of its next door neighbor, one can certainly make the case that America and its toxic president are no longer the leader of the free world.  The United Kingdom, like America through is Brexit vote, has seemingly likewise withdrawn itself from that possible tile.   As a consequence, some have said that mantle now rests with Angela Merkel of Germany.  As a piece in the Washington Post suggests, Emmanuel Macron of France may have his sights on the title.  With so many Americans utterly ignorant of history - most don't know that it was the French fleet that save George Washington's butt at the battle of Yorktown - don't know that France was once a very great power.  If you have doubts, visit Versailles sometime, and call to mind that Canada was once a French possession as was a large part of Africa and the American Mid-West.  But I digress.  Here are article highlights:
Emmanuel Macron is a master of persuasion. In his youth, he seduced his married high school drama teacher, the woman who is now his wife. In middle age — with no government experience — he cajoled a sitting president into giving him a coveted cabinet position. Then — with no support from any established political party — he dazzled a nation, becoming, at 39, the youngest-ever president of France, a country where tradition is a way of life.
Judging from the new president’s calendar, however, the dip in domestic popularity is of little concern, for his roving political eye seems to have identified a new conquest. Macron may be the president of France, but now he seems to be running for a different office altogether: the leader of the free world. Following the election of Donald Trump — who ran on promises of “America First” isolationism — commentators worldwide immediately began referring to German Chancellor Angela Merkel as the de facto defender of the liberal world order. With her famously stoic demeanor, Merkel appeared the natural replacement. Throughout her long career, she has advocated diplomacy and international law, and has defended an embattled European Union.
But in his first three months in office, Macron has dared to tread where Merkel hesitates to go. In keeping with his youthful image, he makes bold statements in defense of global causes such as climate change action, as evidenced in his Twitter campaign to “Make Our Planet Great Again.” And in the style of the “French Obama,” he hosts international celebrities in the Élysée for “conversations” on hot-button issues — including both Bono and Rhianna this week.
 [T]he major plot points of his young presidency have all featured him in the international spotlight, either attempting to charm or stand up to powerful world leaders, often those unpopular in France.
This is not to say that nothing has happened on the domestic level since his election in May. Macron, a relative political outsider even a year ago, ultimately succeed in carrying out an almost unthinkable overhaul of French political life. The new centrist party he founded, République En Marche (Republic on the Move), now has an absolute majority in Parliament.
[H]is principal ambition to date seems to be casting himself as a master negotiator in a new world where all roads somehow lead to Paris.
“To some extent, France is back again,” said Pierre Vimont, a former French ambassador to the United States and the E.U., in an interview. “You have France pushing forward its interest, but doing so in a way that makes it take a central position on the world stage, because France likes to lead and likes to be seen as leading.”
This defense of French interests has taken forms large and small, including a last-minute move to temporarily nationalize France’s largest shipyard on Thursday — to save French jobs from a potential Italian takeover. But so far, it has mostly been the world stage on which Macron has set his sights. Last week, for instance, he hosted Libya’s two rival leaders for talks in a chateau outside Paris. The mission was tentatively successful: the meeting led to a conditional cease-fire agreement between Fayez al-Sarraj, Libya’s U.N.-backed prime minister, and Khalifa Haftar, the military leader who controls much of eastern Libya. Likewise, Vimont said, Macron has positioned himself as a similar mediator between Israel and Palestine and even between the United States and Russia.
Macron has hosted — separately — Russian President Vladimir Putin and President Trump, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
In each of these meetings, Macron has used his considerable charm to play both sides, even while blasting Putin for Russia’s state-owned media being “organs of propaganda.”  But nowhere was Macron’s ability to seduce more on display than in the case of Trump, whom he invited to Paris after the two had a tense first meeting in Brussels in May. For Dominique Moïsi, a French foreign policy expert at the Paris-based Institut Montaigne, a think tank with ties to the Macron campaign, there is potential danger in Macron’s having “put himself in the limelight.”
“At the same time, the devil is in the details,” Moïsi said. “By receiving these leading opposite forces in Paris, he’s taking a risk. What if he fails?”
Macron’s young presidency has not yet experienced a major domestic crisis or attack. Likewise, none of his major policy proposals have yet been implemented — including his controversial push to liberalize France’s highly regulated labor market. Those reforms are due to be introduced in Parliament this fall, and could inspire massive protests. . . . As Moïsi put it, “The hard times are yet to come.”

I wish him luck.  Meanwhile, the husband and will be back in Paris next year - a friend who is retiring is taking us with her and her husband.  She has left us to plan the details. :)

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