French President Emmanuel Macron addressed Congress on Wednesday, praising the United States for its global leadership against a host of threats but also urging it to keep its eyes “wide open” because “anger only freezes and weakens us.”
“We have to keep our eyes wide open to the new risks right in front of us,” Mr. Macron said. “I am convinced that if we decide to open our eyes wider, we will be stronger. We will overcome the dangers.”
The first foreign leader to be granted an official state visit by the Trump administration, Mr. Macron has enjoyed three days of pomp, circumstance and cozy meetings in Washington that have highlighted a strong relationship with President Trump.
But on Wednesday, in a rare address to lawmakers from both the House and Senate, Mr. Macron showed his independent centrist streak by tackling a host of subjects the two leaders still disagree on — including isolationism and nationalism — which underlie Mr. Trump’s “America first” agenda.
Urging the U.S. not to “close the door to the world,” Mr. Macron argued that isolationism and nationalism “could be be tempting” but were really only temporary answers that would “would not douse, only inflame, the fears of our citizens.”
His performance brought a misty Capitol Hill to a standstill and after starting with a three-minute standing ovation — much of the speech was an uplifting, emotional and history-laden serenade of the “miracle relationship” the U.S. shares with France.
“We are surrounded today with images, portraits and symbols which reminds us that France has participated with heart in hand in the story of this great nation from the very beginning,” Mr. Macron said of the relationship, adding that “we have worked together for the universal ideals of liberty, tolerance and equal rights.”
Chemistry with Trump
Since Monday, Mr. Macron and his wife Brigitte Macron have been feted by Mr. Trump and first lady Melania with the administration’s first state dinner, a tour of monuments and a review of U.S. troops.
Washington has noted the growing chemistry between the men as they’ve considered a host of pressing global threats, including Russian aggression, the Syrian civil war, climate change, North Korea and the Iran nuclear deal.
On Tuesday, that chemistry appeared to produce a diplomatic breakthrough for the Iran deal — which imposed restrictions on Iran’s nuclear programs in exchange for lifting international economic sanctions.
While Mr. Trump has called the agreement “insane,” for not better managing Iran’s ballistic missiles and has regularly threatened to leave the agreement — Mr. Macron has advocated the European position to keep it intact. On Tuesday, however, he moved closer to Mr. Trump’s harsh critique of the agreement.
On Wednesday, there seemed to be even more diplomatic sleight of hand on the Iran issue.
At first, both Republicans and Democrats burst into applause when Mr. Macron told them that France’s “objective is clear: Iran shall never possess any nuclear weapons. Not now, not in five years, not in 10 years.”
But then he seemingly backtracked from Tuesday’s harder line by saying the deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), should not be dumped before “something more substantial” is developed.
When he added that “France will not leave the JCPOA (w/Iran), because we signed it,” Democrats filled the chamber with applause as Republicans remained silent, with some rubbing their chins and shaking their heads.
Mr. Macron also prodded the Trump Administration on the Paris climate agreement, which Mr. Trump canceled U.S. involvement in at the start of his presidency saying instead he wanted to focus on American jobs.
Mr. Macron said he was confident the U.S. will rejoin the accord.
The French president then made direct reference to Mr. Trump’s 2016 signature campaign pledge “Make America Great Again” when discussing climate change policy.
“Let us work together in order to make our planet great again and create new jobs and new opportunities while safeguarding our earth,” he said, adding that “We are killing our planet. Let us face it: There is no Planet B.”
On terrorism, the French leader noted shared 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,” Mr. Macron 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.”
The French president also took direct aim at the scourge of so-called ‘fake news’ — warning that lies disseminated online threaten freedoms worldwide.
“Without reason, without truth, there is no real democracy,” he said, adding that “the corruption of information is an attempt to erode the very spirit of our democracies.”
Mr. Macron also warned against “terrorist propaganda that spreads its fanaticism on the Internet.”
An hour before the address, Mr. Trump tweeted, “Busy day planned. 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!”
The speech coincided with the 58th anniversary of a Washington address to Congress by then-French President Charles de Gaulle.