Macron on ‘coolness’
NURAY MERTI am among those who think that being a French - or any other country’s – president is not “cool” at all. It can only be the dream of extremely ambitious men and women who dare to waste their whole lives on power; and that is not cool at all. Besides, to play the political games, one needs to lose humane qualities like not only affection and dignity but also irony, without which coolness is unthinkable.
Recently, French President Emmanuel Macron too joked about the lack of coolness of his job, but only with reference to “having to talk to [President Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan every 10 days,” as if it is the only hindrance of his otherwise marvelous job. I am not someone who would feel humiliated by his joke out of nationalistic sensitivity nor am I a supporter of Erdoğan’s politics. Besides, I am well aware of the fact that Macron had to talk to Erdoğan for rather unpleasant and annoying reasons, like the detention and arrest of French journalists in Turkey, which he has the right to complain about.
Nevertheless, I need to remind that the same Macron never complained about having to meet U.S. President Donald Trump at least four times since being elected. On the contrary, he invited Trump to Paris for Bastille Day and displayed kind and accommodating behavior, despite their very different views on many things like the political meaning of Europe and global warming.
It is no surprise, since Macron does not qualify to be cool, first of all because he respects power more than anything else and Trump is too powerful to be mocked. In fact, it also seems that he and Trump have more disguised similarities than apparent differences. It is not only their common cherish for power but also their understanding of the exercise of power. Otherwise, it would be surprising that a supposedly liberal French president chooses Napoleon and Charles De Gaulle as historical and political references. After all, he did not refrain from defining the overthrow of Louis XVI during the French Revolution as a “monarchic trauma,” which he considered to have links with the French view of the presidential office in an interview with French weekly Challenges in October 2016. Moreover, he criticized Francois Hollande for “not behaving in Jupiterian presidency” and stated that he did not believe in a “normal presidency,” as Hollande defined himself in the same interview.
As the grand historical places play a great symbolic role in Macron’s political universe, he chose to make his victory speech at the Louvre and addressed both houses of parliament in the setting of Versailles Palace after being elected. Although, he could not avoid an image of pettiness as he sought an official status for his wife, despite his pretension of grandness, so far nothing deters him from thinking very highly of himself. In fact, Trump seems rather modest in comparison with his self- image and his belief in his country’s grandeur.
As for his economic views, it is no more than the advocacy of banal neo-liberalism to replace “the inefficient French economic system” by labor reforms. As for European politics, his compromise with Germany may be more to do with his acknowledgement of Germany’s power position rather than his firm belief in the holy “idea of Europe.” As for political authority, Trump cannot compete with his ambition for the centralization of powers since the French system is suitable for such ambitions, whereas the U.S. system has means to resist such temptations. If there is much less criticism about Macron than Trump, it is more to do with style; after all, Trump is a vulgar man who married a much younger wife, whereas Macron is a cultured European who married a much older woman; as if only that is enough to prove his progressiveness as he challenges male dominance.