President Trump is not having a good run with the French this week. On Monday, as fires consumed Notre Dame cathedral, he tweeted out utterly idiotic advice for Parisian firefighters to use “flying water tankers” to extinguish the blaze. France, in turn, was forced to explain to our incredibly dense president that dumping tons of water on a burning structure composed mostly of aged wood could lead to the entire thing collapsing.
Now, the French ambassador to the U.S., who is leaving his post after years of service, has delivered some choice comments on Trump. Ambassador Gérard Araud compared the current American administration to the court of King Louis XIV.
“You have an old king, a bit whimsical, unpredictable, uninformed, but he wants to be the one deciding,” Araud said in an interview with The Guardian.
It must be pointed out that for a French ambassador, even an outgoing one, to speak in such harsh terms about the American president is no small thing. Under regular circumstances, such opinions would generally be kept to oneself out of fear of doing lasting diplomatic damage. Clearly, the French have no illusions about trying to engage with the Trump administration in any kind of constructive fashion.
“When they say ‘America first’, it’s America alone,” Araud said, zeroing in on one of Trump’s terrible slogans. “Basically, this president and this administration don’t have allies, don’t have friends. It’s really [about] bilateral relationships on the basis of the balance of power and the defence of narrow American interest.”
Araud’s remarks, as stark as they are, are not without merit. This is the outcome that many predicted when Trump first began trashing other nations and beating his chest about making America win again. He has alienated the world and made it much harder for the United States to build international consensus to accomplish good around the globe as we have for close to a century. His presidency has been a disastrous blow to America’s standing in the world.
“They [the Trump administration] are not thinking in terms of multilateral cooperation first. And secondly, they don’t have any affection towards the Europeans. They treat Europeans the way they treat the Chinese. And when the British come for a free-trade agreement, there will be blood on the walls and it will be British blood. It will be GMOs breakfast, lunch and dinner,” said Arnaud, reinforcing how the White House has pushed its closest friends away by treating them as adversaries.
The ambassador also spoke to Foreign Policy and said that it takes extreme patience to deal with the Trump administration and that the mercurial nature of the president often means that doing and saying nothing is the best course of action because pushing back often leads to escalation as Trump “has no restraint.”
In one lengthy section of the interview, Araud broke down the major differences between dealing with President Obama and President Trump. Unsurprisingly, it’s not a flattering description of the current president.
“On one side, you had this ultimate bureaucrat, an introvert, basically a bit aloof, a restrained president. A bit arrogant also but basically somebody who every night was going to bed with 60-page briefings and the next day they were sent back annotated by the president. And suddenly you have this president who is an extrovert, really a big mouth, who reads basically nothing or nearly nothing, with the interagency process totally broken and decisions taken from the hip basically,” Araud said.
“And also, for an ambassador, you had a normal working administration with Obama. People in the executive branch offices were able to explain to you what the president was thinking or what the president was going to do. And suddenly it’s the opposite. A lot of offices are still empty. It’s amazing—after 55 months, a lot of people are changing overnight. It’s the fourth G-7 [emissary] we’ve had in the White house in two years! So the first problem is we have nobody in the offices or if they are there, they’re going to leave. But on top of that, even if you have somebody in the offices, they don’t know what the president is going to say. And if the president has said something, they don’t know what he means,” he added.
Foreign Policy asked Araud if he believed that the reelection of Trump in 2020 would be a “disaster” for the western world. While the ambassador stopped short of calling it such, he is clearly worried about what such an electoral outcome would mean for the world.
“I don’t know if it will be a disaster. I’m sure it won’t be a good thing,” he said, before going on to explain some of the non-Trump hurtles currently facing Europe. His analysis is clear: the United States, and the world in general, will be much better off once Trump is removed from office.
Read the full Foreign Policy interview here.