The early steps of France’s new President indicate he won’t be… but one never knows.
France’s recently elected President Emmanuel Macron is all the rage these days – not just in French but also in European and even global politics.
Not only has Macron won France’s presidential elections by a landslide, rescuing, at least for the time being, France, Europe, and the world from far-right Marine Le Pen, an extremely suspicious political character funded by Moscow, but after the first round of the French parliamentary elections, his young party La Republique en Marche! (LREM) seems poised to win a record majority in France’s National Assembly.
The political rise of Macron, the centrist liberal, former investment banker, and former Economy Minister in France’s Socialist government, has taken many both inside and outside France by surprise (of course, giving plenty of food for conspiracytheories to the conspiracy minded).
That’s not all, however. 39-year-old Macron, France’s youngest state leader since Napoleon Bonaparte rose to power in 1799, already seems to be living up to his leadership projection potential.
Within a couple of weeks of his election, Macron had stood up to both US President Donald Trump, and Russian President Vladimir Putin, flown to Mali to reinvigorate the French and UN effort to crack down on jihadist fighters, and struck a chord with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
(Merkel was close with the no-so-successful former President of France Nicolas Sarkozy – so much so that the two were known as Merkozy. It is yet to be seen if Merkel and Macron will become known as Mercron.)
Calling some of Moscow’s top propaganda channels, RT (Russia Today) and Sputnik, what they are, “organs of influence, of propaganda and of lying propaganda,” to Putin’s face has been something that any self-respecting Western leader should have done a long time ago.
Even before any of those things had happened, I dared style Macron “the new and real hope for France and Europe”.
Yet, even though he might seem to be on the right track, the young, dynamic, and full of promise and potential Macron still faces his gravest threat, namely, of becoming another Obama. Or another Trudeau.
Macron, Obama, Trudeau
Comparing France’s new President Emmanuel Macron to former US President Barack Obama and/or Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau Justin Trudeau comes quite naturally:
charm, even boyish charm, a projection hope that comes with change, a perception of change that comes with hope, eloquence, intelligence, connection with “the masses”, obviously great intentions, modern-day liberalism in its best form, and exceptionalism.
A great form which wishful thinking easily transforms into what is supposed to be a great substance.
An awesome-looking package spurring a feeling that something extremely special awaits you on the inside – except the more you unwrap it, the more disappointed you get.
For all his promise of revolutionary change, eloquence, and grassroots support, such a global leader as former US President Obama, whom I did find inspiring at first, ended up his two terms with little conspicuous domestic and foreign policy achievements to show for.
And Trudeau, the boyish Canadian Prime Minister, who constantly seems to pop up “by accident” for great photo ops, more fairly described as PR stunts, thought it was a good idea to dishonor himself by lamenting late Cuban dictator Fidel Castro as a “remarkable leader”
There you have Macron’s top challenge: not to become another Obama or another Trudeau in spite of sharing a lot of common features with them.
“Reboots”, “Red Lines”, etc.
This piece is on Macron and the pitfalls the promising new President of France, also, hopefully, emerging as one of the leaders the European Union and the West badly need, and not a piece on Obama and Trudeau.
But the former US President and the current Canadian Prime Minister are both great examples of how to ruin, or least compromise severely your political legacy even if you had all the necessary prerequisites not to.
I’ve never hidden that like so many others in the US and around the world, I found the early Obama especially inspiring. Upon his election, I even styled him “the world’s first president”.
I was justified to do so at the time as Obama’s election seemed like such a revolutionary improvement vis-à-vis the Presidency of George W. Bush and its 2003 Iraq War blunder.
(The Iraq invasion is easily rated as one of the top three blunders in America’s international policy alongside FDR’s decision to bestow Eastern Europe upon Stalin in 1943-45, and George H.W. Bush’s decision to forgo the decommunization of the former Soviet Union, which should have been carried out like the denazification of the former Nazi Germany.)
Yes, Obama appeared like such an improvement against the backdrop of George W. and his neocon backing vocals, and one can argue that Macron in today’s France promises to be a great improvement compared with former Socialist President Francois Hollande (Macron’s own political mentor, by the way).
However, in the course of his 8 years (two terms) as President of the United States, Barack Obama did nothing to break up and punish the financial oligarchy that caused the 2008 global financial and economic crash.
Unlike most American Presidents since World War II, Obama largely stood idly by as the Middle East succumbed into chaos.
(That’s not even mentioning that as a result the top US ally of all time, Europe, hobbled by the haphazard transfer of US “multiculturalism” (which is as “unicultural” as it gets, really) on its own soil, was being swarmed with “refugees” with adamantly pre-modern, i.e. medieval customs – who just happened to be rich enough to pay thousands of USD per person to human traffickers so they can take them from Diyarbakir to Berlin.)
Obama perplexingly decided to “reboot” US relations with Russia right after it had attacked and dismembered Georgia, and gave Putin a blank check in the young democracies of Eastern Europe which materialized in the Russian attack on Ukraine – the annexation of the Crimea and the pro-Russian insurgency in Donbass.
Just as perplexingly, Obama “drew a red line” against the use of (chemical) weapons of mass destruction by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, only to shyly watch as Assad, backed by Iran and later by Russia, walked all over the “red line” so many times that it was erased.
As Obama freed so much space for Russia in Eastern Europe and the Middle East, is it any wonder that Putin felt emboldened enough to interfere with the 2016 US elections?! Also, whatever happened to Obama’s “pivot to Asia”?!
I admired Obama, and I still think he is an intelligent and worthy person but his legacy as a US President seems extremely dire, especially when it comes to foreign policy. It wasn’t much better in domestic politics, either, as economic imbalances and social polarization as well as political partisanship seem to keep growing.
So that is why France’s new President Emmanuel Macron should try to leave behind a legacy that’s different from Obama’s. Macron shouldn’t be another Obama – for his and his country and continent’s sake.
How to Disgrace Yourself by Praising a Dictator
Then there is the current Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau – another charming Western leader with boyish charm. Macron shouldn’t be another Trudeau, either.
Regardless of Trudeau’s domestic political achievements, the Canadian leader did think for some reason it would not be a disgrace to call late Cuban dictator Fidel Castro a “remarkable leader”.
Stalin, Hitler, and Mao were all remarkable leaders now, weren’t they, Trudeau? They were also “loved” by a lot of people, weren’t they? Or is it just that those people had to “love” them because their lives could be destroyed in a moment, on a whim of any of those “leaders”.
It’s not just that but Trudeau had the impudence of bragging that his father, late Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, was “proud to call” Castro “a friend”, and then of defending his eulogy to the Cuban dictator when criticized for it.
I still can’t wrap my head around it: the leader of one of the world’s most democratic and liberal nations, Canada, piling praise on a dictator who turned an entire pretty large island nation into a gulag. Regardless of whether that’s leftist delusion and “useful idiocy”, in Vladimir Lenin’s wording, or there is something uglier behind it, Trudeau’s praise of Cuban dictator Fidel Castro has stained his political career and legacy for good.
Compare it with former Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s blunt words to Vladimir Putin at the G-20 summit in Australia in the fall of 2014, after Russia had annexed the Crimea and the Donbass insurgency had started: “I guess I’ll shake your hand but I have only one thing to say to you: You need to get out of Ukraine.”
It is not like I am a fan of Harper (one piece in Foreign Policy actually called him “the last neocon” and his foreign policy has been assessed as “controversial”), nor have I taken extensive interest in his domestic political record.
However, his direct pledges that Canada is committed to the security of its NATO allies in Eastern Europe against the backdrop of what he described as Putin’s “recklessness” were worthy of respect – a lot more so than Trudeau’s declaration that it had been “a great honor” to hang out with the Castros. What if they had turned “the island of freedom” in their personal dictatorial fiefdom? Unlike his many “random” photo ops with the public, Trudeau’s praise for Cuban Castro is one PR stunt that has truly backfired.
Showing a weird infatuation with world leaders’ personal relationships, a number of online media were overjoyed about what they called Macron’s “bromance” with Trudeau during their meeting at the G-7 summit in Sicily.
The repugnant “bromance” coverage aside, France’s President Emmanuel Macron should stay as far as possible from such “bromances”, namely, from replicating the Obama and Trudeau model in which seemingly charming leaders end up with nothing to show for, or manage to eagerly disgrace themselves.
Democracy is too fragile, and freedom is always under threat from those who want to benefit by destroying it.
The West and the wider international community need to stand unwavering in the face of repression, and crush it tyranny, first and foremost, by holding the moral high ground for good, and, second, by credibly acting to back it up.
It needs no “being in bed” with swelling domestic financial oligarchies, no fake red lines to be trampled upon by those who are supposed to be intimidated by them, no leader bromances, and no admiration for evil dictators.
That’s where France’s new President Macron can learn a lot about how not to do things from Western leaders who are perceived in a similar way. Macron should not be another Obama or Trudeau.
Fortunately, Macron’s early steps indicate that he won’t be but, unfortunately, one never knows.
Global Political Editor