Their Body Language says it all. They shook hands, French kissed and touched each other in a manner that only a pair of lovers would normally do. But such a close relationship was displayed during French President Emmanuel Macron’s visit to White House. Heck, there was a moment when U.S. President Donald Trump wiped “dandruff” off Macron’s shoulder.
“We do have a very special relationship, in fact I’ll get that little piece of dandruff off – we have to make him perfect, he is perfect” – Mr. Trump said. Macron is in Washington this week for an official state dinner at the White House, his first since Trump’s inauguration last year. The two will also have a one-on-one meeting in the Oval Office to discuss global policy.
Macron was given the 21-gun salute together with a traditional arrival ceremony featuring nearly 500 members of the U.S. military from all five military branches. He was hosted with a state dinner, the highest social tribute a president bestows on an ally and partner. And First Lady Melania Trump personally involved in making sure the details of the dinner was up to her satisfaction.
Of course, both leaders held a joint press conference too. Trump reportedly sent a handwritten note, probably as a joke, to the French leader, which read – “Yes, Emmanuel, it’s true. I love you!” They have also ceremonially planted a tree together on the South Lawn. The exaggerated handshakes and personal touching speaks volumes about the 241-year friendship between the two countries.
And this was the type of reception that Malaysian caretaker Prime Minister Najib Razak had dreamed of, before he steps his foot on the White House last year. Mr. Najib received practically none of the above, despite offering US$20 billion investment bribes under the pretext of – laughably – making America great again. He entered the White House bearing gifts, but exited empty-handed.
Mr. Trump ended his first year in office without receiving a foreign leader on a state visit, making him the first president in nearly 100 years to fail to do so. He reserved that honour for the French leader, who has emerged as his most trusted European ally over the past year. Yet, despite all the cheer and pomp – and excessive touching – there is a hidden message behind all the kisses.
Both Trump and Macron are alpha-male. But there can only be one king of the jungle. When they first met last May, Macron gripped Trump’s hand so hard, and for so long, that knuckles whitened. Mr. Macron later explained the handshake was a symbolic show that he wouldn’t give in to Trump. The French leader then showered the American leader with some candies.
Macron invited Trump to Paris for Bastille Day last July, and the U.S. Commander-in-Chief was so envious of Macron’s military parade that he told his generals to organize such a hardware display for fellow Americans. But on this trip, Trump has determined that there is no way Macron can be allowed to dominate. Trump must be the alpha this time.
The dandruff stunt wasn’t because Trump loves Macron more than his lovely wife Melania. Instead, it was designed to force Macron into submission. According to Patti Wood, a body language expert and author of “SNAP: Making the Most of First Impressions, Body Language, and Charisma”, what Trump did is something called “primate grooming”.
Basically, the dandruff dance pulled by Trump was meant to tell Macron that – “We have an intimate relationship, but I’m dominant, I’m the alpha gorilla, I’m going to groom you. But I’m going to criticise you by saying you have dandruff and I’m going to do that on the world stage and see how you handle that.”
Such intimacy happened during the era of President George W. Bush. After a Camp David sleepover with Britain Prime Minister Tony Blair, they announced of having used the same toothpaste. Subsequently, the British prime minister became known as Bush’s poodle. Macron is probably looking at the same disaster – becoming Trump’s bichon frise (French’s word for lapdog).
In a photo op with Trump outside the Oval Office, the U.S. president naughtily seized Macron’s hand and pulled him away, like a lover impatiently pulling his partner elsewhere. However, that body language also means that Trump was pulling Macron by a leash, something you do only with your pet poodle. But the complex and entertaining body language didn’t stop there.
On their walk to Marine One presidential helicopter for a private dinner, a rare perk for a visiting foreign leader, Macron put his hand on Trump’s back. Seated in the Oval Office, Macron put his hand on Trump’s knee and affectionately touched Trump’s forearm. Demonstrating himself as the dominant alpha, Trump clearly enjoyed such treatment.
Macron excessive of flattering Trump’s ego, however, has been too obvious it raises the question if the French president has overdone his stunt. But France needs more than a bone from the U.S. that Macron probably thinks it’s worth it. Emmanuel Macron is lobbying Donald Trump to preserve the Iran nuclear deal and said it should not be “torn apart” entirely.
He is also working to revive the U.S. role in the Paris climate accord to fight global warming, another international agreement Trump has mocked as nothing but a scam. Macron’s third goal is seeking relief from the tariffs announced by Trump. Last year, the U.S had a US$14 billion trade deficit with France and a US$102 billion trade deficit with the EU.
France needs to bring home some spoil of war. But if Macron fails to impress Trump despite all the stroking and kissing, another European Union leader will continue his work. German Chancellor Angela Merkel will be in Washington, D.C., on Friday, in what appears to be deliberate back-to-back visits to tame Trump. But if Macron can’t charm Trump, Merkel’s visit could make things worse.
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