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Trump Attends Bastille Day Parade


The president of France, Emmanuel Macron, had a specific approach to a visit by President Trump this week. It was similar to the approach of the royal family when the president visited Saudi Arabia - roll out the red carpet, showcase your imperial grandeur, show off for the visitor, who does love a spectacle; and then see what you can get.

Today, the two presidents attended a Bastille Day parade, including soldiers and armored vehicles of the sort that President Trump reportedly wanted for his own inaugural parade. We do not know if this will really have much effect. But at a press conference, President Trump hinted about some possible change to America's withdrawal from the Paris climate accord.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Something could happen with respect to the Paris accord. We'll see what happens.

INSKEEP: We'll see. NPR's Eleanor Beardsley has had a front row seat for the festivities and is on the line. Hi, Eleanor.


INSKEEP: How's the show?

BEARDSLEY: Oh, my gosh, it was spectacular, I have to say. It's just a crystal-clear, blue-sky summer day. And this was the crowning moment of President Trump's trip, a spectacular military parade down the Champs-Elysees that he was able to watch from his grandstand seat at the Place de la Concorde.

American troops led it off, 188 service members from all four branches. And in front of them, five American soldiers dressed as World War I doughboys carrying flags. So America is really being honored today. You know, it's the 100th anniversary of America entering World War I.

INSKEEP: Oh, yeah.

BEARDSLEY: Big tribute - flags, everything. And all the French commentators were saying, oh, Trump loves this. He's rapt with attention, so...

INSKEEP: OK. And all of this happening with the backdrop of central Paris and Arc de Triomphe and everything else - but what about the substance? What are they talking about, Macron and Trump?

BEARDSLEY: Well, you know, for two presidents who are said to be completely ideologically opposed in almost every issue, they found a lot to agree upon. They had a press conference yesterday. And they just had plenty of plans for the U.S. and France to work together, for example, on a contact group to create a peace road map for Syria. Macron emphasized the absolutely important alliance between French and American military fighting terrorism.

They sort of brushed over their disagreement on the climate accord. And it was funny during the press conference. The toughest question to President Trump came from a French journalist. And he got up there, and he sort of repeated some of the ugly things Trump has said about Paris in the past. And he says, would you say that again today? And here's what Trump said.


TRUMP: You're going to have a very, very peaceful and beautiful Paris. And I'm coming back.


PRESIDENT EMMANUEL MACRON: And you're always welcome.

TRUMP: Thank you.

INSKEEP: OK, so what does that mean? He likes Paris now or just being polite for a moment there or what?

BEARDSLEY: Steve, he seems to like Paris. You know, he was given all of this military, you know, pomp, as you talked about. He was given military honors at Napoleon's tomb and then, of course, wined and dined in the Eiffel Tower. How could you not like Paris when you're seeing those kind of things?

You know, Macron was actually criticized for inviting Trump by a lot of people who said, how can you do this after the U.S. has dropped out of the Paris climate accord? But, you know, Macron has always said, we must keep the U.S. engaged within the circle of nations, not turning away. And people are saying that these men, despite their ideological differences, have forged a close friendship. You know, they clapped each other on the back several times. I mean, they're - you know, the media and everyone's been watching their body language the whole trip.

And it really seems they have sort of an affinity for each other. And, you know, Trump has had issues with the European Union. He says he doesn't know it well - maybe some frosty exchanges with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. But he knows now he has a friend in Paris with Emmanuel Macron.

INSKEEP: I do want to linger, though, on things he's said about Paris and about France because President Trump said, essentially, that the city of Paris has been ruined by migrants, that it's not the same Paris anymore, that he had a friend who would never go there anymore. And you've noted in your past reporting that President Trump is very, very unpopular in France. Is he any more popular, just based on the conversations you've had with people?

BEARDSLEY: Well, I'm going to tell you. This trip was weird. It's a - Trump was taken out of his context, which is very negative in the U.S. right now. He's feeling isolated. He's feeling under siege because of, you know, the Russian inquiry. So you saw a different President Trump here. He seemed to be relaxed. And people - I've been talking to people on the Champs-Elysees, and they said, no, that's a good thing that he was invited. America and France are allies. It's a good thing. And it's actually good for Paris tourism, for France, because American tourists are back now. And President Macron also wanted to send that message to Americans - come back to Paris.

INSKEEP: They'll always have Paris (humming).


INSKEEP: Eleanor, thanks very much.

BEARDSLEY: Thank you, Steve.

INSKEEP: That's NPR's Eleanor Beardsley in Paris. She joined us via Skype. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Eleanor Beardsley began reporting from France for NPR in 2004 as a freelance journalist, following all aspects of French society, politics, economics, culture and gastronomy. Since then, she has steadily worked her way to becoming an integral part of the NPR Europe reporting team.
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