The truth is … Trump was being played. The day of their love affair, Trump had entertained himself by pretending to flick dandruff from Macron’s lapel, grabbing the French leader’s hand and pulling him along the colonnade the way most of us would shepherd a small child, and engaging in the reciprocal kissing of cheeks. And while Macron appeared not only to tolerate, but actually to encourage this strangely inappropriate behavior, there seemed to be more than a hint of bullying in Trump’s behavior and a hint of fawning in Macron’s.
But the following day, as Macron took to the podium in the House of Representatives, statesmanship emerged. Speaking in a language not his own, Macron nevertheless made it clear that he was no fan of Trumpian politics and policies. But here’s the question: Did Trump understand him? Did he, for instance, understand that when President Macron said a “commercial war” is inconsistent with our mission, history, and current global commitments, he’s telling Trump that the trade war he yearns for is a stupid idea?
When Macron said anger and fear do not “construct anything,” did Trump understand he’s saying insults and smackdowns and early morning rants on “Fox and Friends” is no way to run a country?
And what did Trump make of the alternative Macron offered: “Against ignorance we have education. Against inequalities, development. Against cynicism, trust and good faith. Against fanaticism, culture. Against disease, medicine. Against the threats on the planet, science.” Did Trump get it? Did he understand the hard truth (and the clever turn of phrase by one speaking in his second language), “There is no Planet B”?
The fact is Trump might have appeared the alpha in the giddy play the world watched the day Macron arrived, but by the time he left, Macron was clearly the grown-up alpha on the international scene.