THE blossoming ‘bromance’ between US President Donald Trump and his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron has certainly made for some amusing television clips.
During Macron’s state visit to Washington this week – the first afforded by the US since Trump’s election – this very odd couple has been pictured kissing, hugging and even longingly holding hands.
At one point Trump even affectionately brushed a speck of dandruff from Macron’s collar before telling watching TV crews that he wanted him to be “perfect”. As our American friends might say: “Seriously guys, get a room!”
But behind the tomfoolery for the cameras much serious work appears to be going on. Both publicly and, no doubt, privately, Macron has raised heavyweight issues such as the Syrian civil war, more free trade between the US and the EU, the Paris climate agreement and the Iranian nuclear deal.
Macron is shrewd enough to realise that regardless of the clear political differences between them, and whatever his personal views of Trump’s eccentricities, the US President is still the leader of the free world and the head of an economic giant with unrivalled global influence.
So, cleverly, the French president seems determined to forge his own “special relationship” with the US at all costs. And it would appear that the French public is happy for Macron to woo his unlikely date. There has hardly been a peep of protest, even among France’s left-wing newspapers, at Macron’s Washington love-in.
Neither were there many complaints when Macron rolled out the red carpet for Trump during the Bastille Day celebrations in Paris in July last year.
Clearly the French public takes a pragmatic and realistic approach when it comes to US-French relations. Petty protests are seen as a pointless indulgence when set beside the huge benefits in everything from trade to counter-terrorism that a closer relationship will bring.
The contrast with the UK – where even the mention of Trump’s name provokes a positively unhinged reaction in many quarters – is stark. For example, there was much clutching of pearls when Trump briefly held Theresa May’s hand in the White House garden last year. Pass the smelling salts, aunt Agatha! But even this was dwarfed by the outbreak of absolute hysteria that greeted Trump’s ill-advised tweets about Islamic terrorism in the UK last November.
Politicians from across the political spectrum went absolutely bonkers and Trump was labeled a ‘fascist’ and ‘racist’ and there were calls for him to be permanently banned from the UK.
So we are supposed to welcome with open arms returning jihadis from Syria, but ban the US President from entering the country? To use another American expression – go figure.
I remember thinking at the time that if MPs could get as angry and upset over actual terrorist atrocities as they were over Trumps tweets, then the UK would be a much safer country.
It was widely thought that this reaction was at least partly the reason for Trump’s planned state visit to the UK to be put off.
Now there are fresh reports that a date for a working visit by Trump has finally been agreed for July 13.
Cue the familiar confected outrage, accompanied with tedious inevitability by calls for mass demonstrations and promises that “millions” will turn out onto the streets in protest.
Past experience indicates that by “millions” what they actually mean is a few thousand of the usual suspects, some giant puppets and drummers, posters supplied in bulk by the Socialist Workers Party and a smattering of Hezbollah flags.
It won’t make any difference to anything, except to cause this country some mild embarrassment, but at least it will let a few virtue signalers feel a bit better about themselves. “Look everybody, what a good person I am because I hate Donald Trump!” Oh do grow up!
They should take a leaf out of the Queen’s book and greet the president with all the dignity and respect that his office deserves. And let’s not forget that as head of state the Queen has been obliged to greet all manner of real despots and monsters, from Vladimir Putin to Robert Mugabe by way of Nicolae Ceausescu and Xi Jinping. The meeting with Donald Trump will be a piece of cake for her.
As for the rest of us, I never thought I’d say this, but sometimes I wish we were a bit more like the French.