PARIS — In a series of churlish tweets on Tuesday, Donald Trump discovered, again, that he really doesn’t like France.
His weird-ass bromance with French President Emmanuel Macron would seem to be over, and many people here will be relieved. Trump’s reputation for vulgarity, ignorance, and impulsiveness—although it may be prized by some of his American fan base—does not sit well with the French.
The president of the United States started out by repeating a lie he’d tweeted when he landed here on Friday: that Macron wanted to build a European army to defend against Russia, China, and the U.S. What Macron actually said (days earlier) was that Europe needed to defend itself from hackers in those countries, and to build a stronger military defense against Russia not so dependent on Washington—which is pretty much what Trump used to say he wants. More recently, Trump said he just wants other members of NATO to pay Washington to defend them. Right.
As usual, Trump blustered about trade, claiming French duties on American wines are too high, and American ones on French wines too low. OK. Not that it will make any difference to the unfiltered preferences of the Gauls, who find the better wines of the United States ridiculously expensive even in America.
Trump, who humiliated himself in Paris this weekend, disparaged Macron for denouncing Trumpian (and Kaiserian and Hitlerian) nationalism as a plague on humanity that brought on two world wars. Trump ignored, perhaps for lack of understanding, the distinction that Macron drew with patriotism, which is love of country, as opposed to hatred of others.
“The problem is that Emmanuel suffers from a very low Approval Rating in France, 26%, and an unemployment rate of almost 10%,” Trump wrote. “He was just trying to get onto another subject. By the way, there is no country more Nationalist than France, very proud people-and rightfully so!”
They love their country, yes, but they are just beginning to learn how much they hate Trump’s America.
Trump continued. “MAKE FRANCE GREAT AGAIN!” he declared, then got the core of his irritation: the lousy reviews for blowing off a commemoration at Belleau Wood on Saturday where so many Marines died in 1918.
Ostensibly he canceled because of rain, although all the other world leaders made their appointed rounds. (Those of us here would have described the precipitation as drizzle, not a helicopter-threatening storm or fog bank.)
“By the way,” Trump tweeted—“by the way” being the tell that gives away his real obsession—“when the helicopter couldn’t fly to the first cemetery in France because of almost zero visibility, I suggested driving. Secret Service said NO, too far from airport & big Paris shutdown. Speech next day at American Cemetary [sic] in pouring rain! Little reported-Fake News!”
(A second tweet corrected the spelling of cemetery.)
Although Trump didn’t reference it, he probably was most upset when the official Twitter feed of the French army made fun of him by showing a soldier crawling under wires on a wet sidewalk with the caption: “#MondayMotivation There’s rain but it’s not serious [laugh until you cry emoji] You’re still motivated [fist emoji].”
What’s true is that Trump did go to a cemetery at Suresnes on Sunday afternoon en route to the airport, and did get a little wet, and complained about it in his usual half-joking, half-serious way, looking at nonagenarian veterans of the Second World War and saying they were smart to be under cover. He also folded in the remarks about Belleau Wood, which he hadn’t bothered to make the day before.
And when he got home to Washington? He did not bother to go to Arlington Cemetery on Veterans Day Monday.
Early in Trump’s presidency, after exploiting terror attacks in France to feed his fear-mongering campaign, Trump opined, citing a “friend,” that, “Paris is no longer Paris.”
Then came Macron’s efforts to win Trump over on issues like the climate accord, the Iran nuclear agreement, and trade barriers. Trump enjoyed his Bastille Day experience here so passionately that he seemed to be in love with Paris and Macron almost as much as he is with, say, Kim Jong Un.
But all of Macron’s efforts were humiliating failures, and so the French president decided this weekend to take the high road once again. And Trump, predictably, took the low one.