Soundtracking the Resistance – France in the House

Emmanuel Macron, Iran Nuclear Deal, Superchunk, Janelle Monáe, North Korean Diplomacy, and Kanye West Buddies Up to Donald Trump

Apr 27, 2018 By Stephen Mayne Bookmark and Share


Our Gallic friends came to visit this week, plus cabinet positions remain unfulfilled, lawyers refuse to speak, Kanye West continues to court controversy, and Janelle Monáe remains impeccably cool. 

The Big Event

You just can't trust the French. One moment they're all buddy buddy, shaking hands, patting backs, hugging in public, the next they're grandstanding in your house, calling out flaws and getting a round of applause while doing so. That's what French President Emmanuel Macron has been up to this week at least.

He also demonstrated the textbook example of how to handle a man as mercurial as Donald Trump with some Trump-taming 101. Lay on the flattery when he's there, preferably while wearing a sharp suit, and then take aim with just enough ambiguity to allow for a nonchalant shrug should Trumpy ever call him on it. Not that he's likely to if he thinks you think he's the greatest thing since sliced bread. Not unless Fox & Friends tells him otherwise anyway.

In case you're wondering what I'm on about (and if so shame on you and why are you not avidly following every speech on Capitol Hill like a good freedom loving patriot?) Macron, who gave hope to anyone of vaguely centrist views the world over when he captured the French presidency last year, came to town. He's the first foreign leader to get a state visit from Trump.

The Commander in Trump got his photo ops, and genuinely seems to like his French opposite number. Who knows, maybe Macron likes him back, but he took the opportunity to call out isolationism and extreme nationalism. Or in his own words "we can choose isolationism, withdrawal and nationalism...but that will only inflame the fears of our citizens.''

The whole speech to both houses of Congress was a controlled middle finger to the idea the world's preeminent power can crawl into its shell and turn armchair general, directing the masses without getting involved.

Macron made sure to big up the global institutions the U.S. created in the first place. "The United States is the one who invented this multilateralism; you are the one who has to help preserve and reinvent it." Or, translated from diplomatic chat, stop throwing your toys out the pram and don't behave like the world is just a large-scale version of The Apprentice.

Along the way we got a thumbs up for the World Trade Organization and a thumbs down for Trump's bilateral trade war obsession. "We wrote these rules. We should follow them" is far removed from Trumpian drawbridge-raising bluster. We also got shout outs for the Iranian nuclear deal and action on climate change, and a lovely double-edged barb when stating western countries should "not create new walls."

Does this mean the leader of the much-maligned "cheese-eating surrender monkeys" has found a way to keep Trump smiling without rolling over and taking a kicking like the entirety of the Republican establishment?

Partly. Macron is similar to Trump in circumstances if not personality. Perhaps that helps. He's an outsider not tied to standard political conventions. He was largely ignored when he first entered the presidential race, and somehow emerged victorious. He stands directly opposed to the old party order, representing something new. And he won. But he's also an unabashed defender of an open, outward looking liberal world with all the good and bad that brings.

Macron could easily fail to succeed in France, never mind in the wider world, but it's comforting to watch him hug without giving away all he stands for in the process. There can be a solution to Trump and his ugly factionalism, and it doesn't have to come solely by messy name-calling and angry placards. Congress seemed to think so anyway. They gave him a 3-minute standing ovation, and then a little over half those in attendance sat down and checked Twitter to see if they were in trouble.

Let's circle back to that Iranian deal though. It seems Macron wanted to use his visit to talk the Trump out of reneging on the deal, and on that front things do not look up. He called constant U.S. policy U-turns under this White House "insane." But Trump then called the Iran deal "insane" so the limits on Trump-taming remain firmly in place.

What's Going On

Another Trump dud bites the dust. Ronny Jackson is no longer in the running to take over Veteran Affairs after a whirlwind of allegations consumed him. Even before talk of handing out pain medication like a soda machine, or drunkenly wrecking cars at Secret Service parties broke, plenty were dubious a man with no managerial experience should be taking over a government department. But he is the White House physician and said nice things about Trump during his medical. What more qualifications does a man need?

South Korean President Moon Jae-in met with his North Korean counterpart Kim Jong-un today, the first time Korean leaders have met since 2007. It's also part of the process that may end with Trump sitting down to talk denuclearization (or whatever else comes to his mind that day) with the North Korean President.

Back in Trumpland, his lawyer Michael Cohen is all set to plead the fifth when facing the lawsuit brought by adult film star Stormy Daniels. Just for the record, Trump has said in the past "if you're innocent, why are you taking the Fifth Amendment?" He also seemed to admit on Fox & Friends that Cohen represented him in dealing with Daniels, apparently suggesting he knew about a payment going to Daniels.

Speak Up!

Kanye West has made one of his customary returns to social media, and as usual has stirred up controversy. His pro-Trump tweet met with a lot of criticism and a hearty thanks from Trump himself.

The British indie scene is getting behind organ donation. Everything Everything, British Sea Power, Maxine Peake, and Wild Beasts are just a few of the acts involved in promoting organ donation. Speed Donating is the initiative aiming to get people in Europe to sign up as organ donors, and Robin Richards of Dutch Uncles has helped set up Speed Donating Singles, an effort to draw people in and show how simple it is to sign up as a donor. A number of bands contributed audio to the project. More info can be found here.

Superchunk are keeping the political themes in its recent work running with a new video for "Erasure," off the recently released What a Time to Be Alive. The video shows the effects Trump's tweets have on people's daily lives with a dose of humor thrown in for good measure.

Song of the Week: Janelle Monáe - "Make Me Feel"

That Janelle Monáe is super cool is not really up for debate these days, as her new album Dirty Computer reveals. She seems to be hitting that sweet spot, charming mainstream and fanatic music fans alike.

As the culture wars rage around us, she also announced this week that she considers herself to be pansexual. Let's end with a recent single that proudly champions a broader and more diverse approach to sexuality.

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Rehana Malik
May 11th 2018
7:09am

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Ananya
May 19th 2018
1:55pm

Make Me Feel, by Joana Song is just amazing I Loved it.