How to sound smart about the French state visit

French President Francois Hollande is expected to arrive in Washington later Monday for two days of meetings with President Obama.

U.S. President Barack Obama and French President Francois Hollande smile during their meeting in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington May 18, 2012. Hollande is in the United States to join other leaders of the major industrial economies and meet for a G8 Summit at Camp David this weekend to try to head off a full-blown financial crisis in Europe. REUTERS/Larry Downing (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS BUSINESS) French President Francois Hollande, left, and  President Obama during their meeting in the Oval Office in May  2012. (Larry Downing/Reuters)

While much of the attention will be focused on Hollande’s love life – he and his longtime partner Valérie Trierweiler just broke up – Hollande also has a busy series of events with the president. If you’re talking about the visit around the water cooler, here are the topics you'll want to know. (Thanks to staff writer Karen DeYoung for helping with this list.)

  • Hollande and Obama will tour Monticello Monday afternoon, visiting the home of Thomas Jefferson, a Francophile and a former U.S. ambassador to France. On Tuesday, Hollande and Obama will be holding a news conference at the White House and then visiting Arlington National Cemetery to honor World War II veterans. Finally, Tuesday night, Obama will hold a state dinner in Hollande’s honor.
  • It will be the first state dinner since October 2011, when Obama hosted South Korean President Lee Myung-bak. A state dinner last year with Brazil’s president, Dilma Rousseff, was canceled after the National Security Agency disclosures.
  • Hollande has invited Obama to come to Normandy on June 6  to mark the 70th anniversary of D-Day.
  • The United States and France have had two big foreign policy disagreements in the past year: Syria and Iran. France was frustrated that Obama did not move more quickly to use force in Syria after the regime of Bashar al Assad was accused of using chemical weapons. France has also been somewhat skeptical of Obama’s approach to Iran, with concerns that the U.S. was not negotiating a tough enough deal with Iran.
  • However, France and the U.S. have cooperated effectively regarding French military intervention in Mali and the Central African Republic. The U.S. has been providing logistical and intelligence aid for those operations.)
  • Hollande has suffered a lot of criticism from the left for raising taxes and then warning that they might be slowing growth. Obama has often disappointed those on the left with his decisions to strike deals with Republicans that did not raise taxes as sharply as he said he would.
  • The NSA disclosures are also likely to come up in the discussions with Hollande, who like other Europeans has reacted furiously to revelations about the extent of U.S. eavesdropping.
French President Hollande arrives in the United States for the first state visit hosted by President Obama and first lady Michelle in nearly two years. (Reuters)
Zachary A. Goldfarb is policy editor at The Washington Post.
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