French President Emmanuel Macron became the first foreign head of state of Donald Trump’s presidency to address a joint meeting of Congress Wednesday — a speech in which he defended climate accords and the Iran deal.
His remarks capped off a highly successful three-day visit marked by unusual personal warmth between the two leaders.
While his personal connection to Trump appears to be growing stronger, Macron also presented a strong repudiation of the kind of insular and nationalistic political sentiments that helped Trump win office, drew a contrast with Trump on trade and the environment, and defended the Iran deal that Trump has called “insane.”
"Both in the United States and Europe, we're living in a time of anger and fear," said Macron, rejecting nationalism and isolationism. "Because of this current global threat. But these feelings do not build anything. You can play with fear and anger for a time. But they do not construct anything."
On Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris climate accords, Macron was firm.
“We are killing our planet – let us face it, there is no Planet B,” said Macron, adding “I am sure one day the United States will come back and join the Paris agreements, and I am sure we can work together to fulfill with you the ambitions of the global compact on the environment.”
On the Iran deal, which Trump has threatened to pull out of, Macron expressed optimism that the US and France can work together to forge a more comprehensive deal that's more acceptable to President Trump.
“Iran shall never possess any nuclear weapons - not now, not in five years, not in ten years, never,” said Macron. “But this policy should never lead us to war in the Middle East. We must ensure stability and respect the sovereignty of nations, including that one of Iran.”
“We signed it at the initiative of the United States,” he said, “we should not abandon it without having something more substantial instead. That’s my position.”
But after days of public displays of affection, those differences on policy are unlikely to diminish the growing friendship between the two first-term presidents.
On Tuesday they held hands, kissed cheeks, patted each other’s knees and backs, and in a gesture normally reserved for family and the closest of friends, President Trump brushed a speck off of Macron’s impeccably tailored suit.
“We have to make him perfect,” Trump said. “He is perfect.”
It’s a long way from the 2016 campaign when Trump would often heap scorn on French immigration policies – recalling how a friend named “Jim” told him “I don’t go there anymore. Paris is no longer Paris.’”
And farther still from that time when Congress was so disgusted with France’s opposition to the Iraq War that it re-named the French fries in the Capitol cafeteria “freedom fries.”
On Wednesday in his address, Macron spoke warmly of the relationship between the two nations and their leaders.
“France has participated with heart in hand in the story of this great nation from the very beginning,” Macron told Congress, earning the first of many standing ovations. “Let me thank your President and the first lady for this wonderful invitation for my wife and myself. I am so very grateful.”