By and large, the French don’t share their president’s bromance for President Trump. But public opinion has softened toward the American leader.
In a survey conducted here in the two days after the U.S. midterm elections, 65% of the public reported having an adverse opinion of Trump. While that’s hardly an approval rating worth writing home about, it’s a full 16 percentage points lower than in a poll one year ago. The results were reported by Le Figaro and Franceinfo on Nov. 9, the same day Trump landed in Paris to attend ceremonies marking the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I.
Many French people feel ambivalent about their own president’s deferential attitude toward the U.S. president.
For Julia Ficatier, a seasoned French journalist who has covered the presidential palace for decades, their relationship is more of a competition than a romance. “This very young president wants to show Trump that he has the same pretentions and wants to change the world,” she said. “He doesn’t realize he cannot play Trump in his own backyard.”
She feels that Trump takes a mocking attitude of “the frog who would like to become an ox,” a reference to a fable by French writer Jean de la Fontaine about a frog that bursts while trying to inflate itself to the size of an ox. “And for us, the French, it is shocking.”
Although Trump professes to have a great relationship with the 40-year-old leader of France, he continues to take a hardline on tariffs, NATO and sanctions against Iran — key issues for the French.
In a symbolic gesture this weekend, Trump won’t attend the Paris Peace Forum that kicks off after today’s wreath-laying ceremony at the Arc de Triomphe. Macron conceived of the idea of an annual peace form that would become part of his presidential legacy. More than 60 heads of state will participate in the event. At the same time, a demonstration protesting Trump is planned for the city’s Place de la République. The police expect several thousand protesters.