A day after the warm back pats, air kisses and hand-holding at the White House, French President Emmanuel Macron used a joint address to Congress on Wednesday to pointedly challenge President Trump’s “America first” foreign policy, making a pitch for the Iran nuclear deal, the Paris climate accord and the virtues of multilateralism, free trade and science.
Urging the U.S. not to “close the door to the world,” Mr. Macron told lawmakers that isolationism and nationalism “could be tempting” but were only temporary solutions that “would not douse, only inflame, the fears of our citizens.”
His performance brought a misty Capitol Hill to a standstill. Mr. Macron, a onetime banker who has positioned himself as the Trump administration’s best advocate in Europe, was greeted with a three-minute standing ovation and spent much of the first part of his speech on an emotional and history-laden serenade to the “miracle relationship” between the U.S. and France.
“We are surrounded today with images, portraits and symbols which remind us that France has participated with heart in hand in the story of this great nation from the very beginning,” Mr. Macron said.
“We have worked together for the universal ideals of liberty, tolerance and equal rights,” he added.
Mr. Macron turned more combative later in the speech. Many of his lines received standing ovations from one side of the chamber — often Democrats — while the other party remained in place.
Mr. Macron’s White House remarks Tuesday echoed at times Mr. Trump’s deep skepticism of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. Mr. Trump faces a May 12 deadline on whether to keep the U.S. in the multilateral deal.
But Mr. Macron made clear Wednesday that Paris believed the accord should not be dumped before diplomats can fashion a better agreement.
“It is true to say that this agreement may not address all concerns and very important concerns,” he said. “But we should not abandon it without having something more substantial instead. That’s my position.
“France will not leave the [Iran deal], because we signed it,” he declared.
Mr. Macron also prodded the Trump administration on the Paris climate agreement, from which Mr. Trump withdrew the U.S. last summer. The French president even predicted that Washington would rejoin the global pact one day to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
“Let us work together in order to make our planet great again and create new jobs and new opportunities while safeguarding our Earth,” Mr. Macron said, co-opting Mr. Trump’s 2016 campaign slogan.
“We are killing our planet,” he said. “Let us face it: There is no Planet B.”
Putting in a good word for the United Nations and the global trading order, Mr. Macron challenged his audience to embrace the traditional American defense of the global liberal order, at a time when Mr. Trump is pushing his “America first” agenda for national security and reciprocal trade.
“The United States is the one who invented this multilateralism,” Mr. Macron said. “You are the one who has to help now to preserve and reinvent it.”
On terrorism, the French leader praised joint efforts to combat extremism and lamented the multiple attacks in the U.S. and Europe over the past five years, which he called a “horrific price to pay for freedom and democracy.”
“Our nations have suffered wrenching losses simply because of our values and our taste for freedom,” he said. “That is why we stand together in Syria today to fight together against these terrorist groups who seek to destroy everything for which we stand.”
He also took direct aim at the scourge of “fake news,” warning that lies disseminated online threaten freedoms worldwide.
“Without reason, without truth, there is no real democracy,” he said. “The corruption of information is an attempt to erode the very spirit of our democracies.”
An hour before the address, Mr. Trump tweeted, “Looking forward to watching President Macron of France address a Joint Session of Congress today. This is a great honor and seldom allowed to be done He will be GREAT!”
But Democrats were more effusive in their praise of Mr. Macron’s message.
“I hope that everyone at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue takes President Macron’s words to heart,” said Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat.
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