Call it the audacity of hope. Emmanuel Macron wants to become the savior of the West. Like Sartre, he wants to tell Trump that there is no exit, at least when it comes to the Iran deal.
He gave Donald Trump an air kiss on the cheek yesterday before he headed off to Mount Vernon for a dinner with the Trumps. Next comes a state dinner, the first Trump has held. Planned by Melania herself, it promises to be a fulsome occasion, filled with pious asseverations of brotherly love between two revolutionary nations. By contrast, when German chancellor Angela Merkel visits later this week, she will likely be banished to the scullery. Trump has turned his back on Germany. He has grudges to settle. Trump’s grandfather Friedrich was booted out of Bavaria in 1905. And Merkel doesn’t have the toys to play with that fascinate Trump. Unlike France, Merkel does not have a nuclear deterrent. Nor can she put on a Prussian-style parade for Trump. Her country specializes in guilt about the past, not an emotion that Trump has ever showed signs of displaying.
Macron’s man crush on Trump is raising eyebrows in France. But he knows that he will be hailed as a hero back home, the man who restored French puissance if he can persuade Trump to accept some cosmetic alterations to the nuclear deal and hail them as a great feat that Barack Obama could never have accomplished. Even Napoleon ran aground in Egypt. If Macron can rescue the Iran deal, he will go down in history as the leader who restored France’s foreign policy luster in the Middle East.
To do so, however, he will also rely on Merkel to pound home his message. A new Franco-German axis is emerging. Merkel will offer fewer blandishments and more adjurations about the fateful consequences of exiting. But it’s also possible that listening to the dowdy Merkel will irk Trump enough to propel him, in effect, to go ballistic and repudiate the deal. Lurking in the background, after all, will be National Security adviser John Bolton who regards American allies with almost as much contempt as the Iran deal.