Trump, Macron and the media: Why we must lump not dump Donald Trump
President Donald Trump was French president Macron’s guest of honour for Bastille Day. La Fête nationale marks the storming of the Bastille prison on 14 July 1789 – the flashpoint for the French Revolution which eventually led to the overthrow of the Bourbon monarchy and the execution of Louis XVI and his wife Queen Marie Antoinette. Ordinary people would no longer accept the absolute power of the king.
The symbolism should not be lost.
It was also 100th anniversary of the United States' entry into World War I.
The visit was a roaring success and cemented an unlikely bromance.
French President Emmanuel Macron said "nothing will ever separate" France and the US, and Mr Trump's presence showed "a friendship across the ages".
As The Donald pointed out: "The ties between the United States and France stretch back almost as far as our shared history as democratic republics. France is America's first and oldest ally. In 1778 our two countries signed a treaty of friendship and alliance. We have remained joined in common purpose ever since."
In the meantime, Trump’s planned visit to UK has been postponed amid threats of the biggest protests in UK history.
The visit to France was significant for many reasons. Not least, it again highlighted the difference in approach between France – which welcomed the most powerful man in the world – and those in the UK who ignore international relations by focusing on the personality not the position.
So what did the media make of it all?
Did the media focus on important issues such as the EU after Brexit?
The fact that Trump has now opened the door for a reversal of his decision on the Paris Climate Agreement?
Or the need for a moratorium on fracking while the industry studies the new evidence presented by The Mobbs Report?
Many in the media shone the brightest light on the personal rather than the position and the policies.
The main topic of conversation for several in the media centred on the two first ladies: Melania Trump and Brigitte Macron.
From the dinner at the Jules Verne restaurant at the Eiffel Tower with my other favourite French chef, Alain Ducasse (food and wine with a 360 view of Paris for $360 per head – a Happy Meal indeed!)...
...to another predictable Trump trip-up, complimenting president Macron’s wife, Brigitte, in the same way as you might praise a prized pet or champion athlete: "You're in such good shape.” “She's in such good physical shape. Beautiful,"
But can we really blame the media?
Politics has always been a popularity contest. We love to know everything about our politicians – their families, love lives, personal preferences ...We snigger at their failings whilst avoiding the real issues...
So what can we expect next in this ultimate reality show?
Hot on the high heels of 'Legs-It' and our return to the non-PC 1970s, expect many more Bernard Manning-isms... (Whenever I see a double entendre I just want to whip it out etc etc ..)
Our fascination with titillation is just too irresistible.
Certainly all the elements and cast of characters are there for gossip-column gold.
The media is obsessed with figures from how much people earn – expect the fur to fly on Wednesday as the BBC reveals the salaries of those earning more than £150,000 – to vital statistics like age – Roger Federer sealed a record eighth Wimbledon at 35 – to fascinating facts – Cilic is the first Wimbledon finalist with a name entirely made up of Roman numerals as well as the first one with a palindromic surname.
…and so, the media salivates at the fact that Brigitte Macron is 64 with three children from a previous marriage and seven grandchildren. Her husband is 39, an age difference of a quarter of a century. While Melania Trump has just celebrated her 47th birthday. She has been married to 70-year-old 'The Donald' since 2005.
Brigitte's family, the Trogneux, have been successful chocolatiers for generations – wonderfully now specialising in macarons (you couldn't make it up!).
To add to the excitement, Brigitte was a teacher at Emmanuel’s high school in Amiens, France, when he was 15. Brigitte's eldest daughter, Laurence, was in the same class as Emmanuel. He fell in love with her, vowing to one day make her his wife. How sweet!
In a bid to break up the pair, Emmanuel was sent to Paris to complete his education, but they stayed in touch with each other and married in 2007.
Melania Knauss, born in Slovenia, was a model for an Italian fashion house when she met The Donald at a fashion party in New York in 1998. She was 28 and he was 52 and separated from his second wife. Melania. Wearing a £250,000 wedding dress she married Trump in 2005, watched by a host of celebrities, including the Clintons.
At 39, president Macron is the same age as the US President’s son, Donald Trump Jr.
Both are money men: Macron a banker. Trump real estate. Both are new to their respective presidencies. The age gap between them and their respective spouses is about the same...
"How does it feel to have old age creep up on you ...?" Fnarr, fnarr
The media laps it all up and regurgitates it in glorious, clickbait technicolour.
We magnify the miniscule, triumph the trivial and Basque (bask – geddit ??) in the banal.
It is a delicious but dangerous distraction ....
In the continued predictable quest for clickbait and headlines the media generalise, personalise and trivialise. Important issues get pushed from the front pages and risk being lost all together.
President Trump claims that the media is not paying attention to real issues:
“At some point the Fake News will be forced to discuss our great jobs numbers, strong economy, success with ISIS, the border & so much else!" he tweeted.
POTUS has a point. Playing with the personal has a place but not at the expense of in depth reporting and analysis of the real issues.
I was on Centre Court for the Wimbledon finals at the weekend. In spite of previous reports, Trump did not hop on the Eurostar and join me.
This was a mistake. We missed a trick.
The fact is that Trump’s visit to France was a diplomatic coup for Emmanuel Macron.
The outrage and hysteria since Theresa May extended the invitation to POTUS has undoubtedly prejudiced a presidential visit.
Few in the media acknowledged the significance of the presidential visit to France.
What is more important than the gossip column titbits is the magnification of the difference between France’s and the UK’s response.
The Independent, however, did recognise that: “The outrage over Trump is ultimately kamikaze, as the UK can only lose from ostracising the world’s most powerful man (one of the few leaders who looked positively on us post-Brexit) – a fact that has not been lost on president Macron.”
As Jeremy Corbyn, speaking about the Northern Ireland peace process, acknowledged: “You have to bring about a peace process by talking to people that you don’t agree with. If you just talk amongst your friends, you’re not going to get a peace process."
The same logic should be applied to international relations. Instead Corbyn initially suggested a Trump ban.
We are constantly reminded of the “special relationship” between the US and UK.
But we should also be mindful of how dangerously delicate international relations are as we wrestle with Brexit.
Let’s not forget that president Obama said that Britain would be put to the "back of the queue" for trade deals with the US if we voted to leave the European Union.
We ignored the threat and Obama’s administration subsequently backtracked, claiming the “special relationship” with Britain “has not suffered” after Brexit
Whether we like it or not Brexit – hard or soft boiled – is inevitable.
Brand Britain has a tremendous amount to offer the world but our position on the international stage is precarious until negotiations take place and deals are done.
International diplomacy and the ability to manoeuvre strategically are vital.
Personal brands are key in this post-truth world. Theresa May was the first foreign premier to visit President Donald Trump exactly a week after his inauguration.
Trump threw May a lifeline with promises of propping up Teflon Tezza with a trade deal. It’s enough to make you want to shed a tear..
The British backlash to the proposed presidential visit is dangerous.
We must be wary of allowing our personal political prejudices to poison our already precarious position post-Brexit.
Let us be presidential about our approach. Our relationship with the US is vital to our position in the global economy.
Macron has shown that discussions are possible and stated policies – such as Trump’s announcement that the US would withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord can be reconsidered.
By opposing visits and delaying discussions we are merely weakening our position.
We should not let our appetite for the titillation diminish our hunger for real issues to be addressed and solutions found.
Until we do, expect the media coverage to remain unchanged.
As Macron’s missus taught him:
Plus ça Change, Plus C'est La Même Chose
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