Calls with Trump (and other world leaders), he said, were essentially like sausages.
“As Bismarck used to say, if we explained to people how sausages were made, it’s unlikely they’d keep eating them,” Macron said, according to Reuters, referring to 19th-century Prussian leader Otto von Bismarck. “So I like it when people see the finished meal, but I’m not convinced the kitchen commentary helps with delivering the meal or eating it.”
Macron’s remarks suggest his call with Trump last week may have been even more rancorous than the readouts provided by the French government and the White House in which Macron is quoted as calling Trump’s trade tariffs “illegal.”
Since his state visit to Washington, Macron has warned twice that Trump’s moves could result in war: first, when Trump withdrew from the Iran deal, and again Thursday after the president imposed tariffs on close U.S. allies, including France. “Economic nationalism leads to war. This is exactly what happened in the 1930s,” the French president said.
While Macron’s sausage analogy on Tuesday could be understood as yet another sign of his weakening ties to Trump, the French president was in fact trying to make the opposite point. Since assuming power, he has cracked down on leaks and adopted a more skeptical approach to the media than his predecessor, socialist president François Hollande. The content of calls with foreign leaders, Macron implied, shouldn’t become public.
That has not been the case with a number of other Trump calls to foreign leaders that have ended up leaked and offered unprecedented insights into the internal operations of D.C.’s most powerful sausage factory, if one wants to stick with Macron’s metaphor.
In November 2016, before Trump was inaugurated, Pakistan’s Press Information Bureau released a readout of a Trump call with Pakistan’s prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, that appeared to be verbatim remarks of a president-elect filled with praise for a country that is often at odds with the United States.
“President Trump said Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif you have a very good reputation. You are a terrific guy. You are doing amazing work which is visible in every way. I am looking forward to see you soon. As I am talking to you prime minister, I feel I am talking to a person I have known for long,” Trump was quoted as saying by the Pakistanis at the time.
In July 2017, British officials leaked the content of a phone call between British Prime Minister Theresa May and Trump in which the president reportedly made public support for him the precondition for any visit to Britain and asked her to “fix it.”
“I haven’t had great coverage out there lately, Theresa,” Trump reportedly told the British leader.
“Well, you know what the British press are like,” May was said to have replied. (Trump’s visit to Britain is now scheduled for mid-July this year.)
One month later, The Washington Post obtained transcripts of the president’s calls with the leaders of Mexico and Australia. The release resulted in embarrassment for the White House, as a number of quotes were widely mocked by U.S. commentators and by observers abroad, resulting in headlines such as this one: “8 jaw-dropping lines from Trump’s phone calls with Mexico and Australia.”
Speaking to Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, for example, Trump didn’t bother to hide his frustration, saying: “Look, I spoke to Putin, Merkel, Abe of Japan, to France today, and this was my most unpleasant call.”
On the other hand, calls with Russian leader Vladimir Putin later on in Trump’s presidency appeared to go much better, another leak revealed this March, when it was reported that Trump had congratulated Putin on his election victory. Even though the practice isn’t uncommon among world leaders, his aides had specifically urged Trump not to congratulate Putin, given heightened tensions between the Kremlin and the United States.
While commentators blasted the leaker of the transcript for violating the rules of diplomatic secrecy at the time, Trump’s critics immediately jumped on it as yet another opportunity to lash out at the president.
If anything, these leaked transcripts of Trump’s phone calls seem to hint at the wisdom of Macron’s sausage analogy — sometimes it’s just best not to know what is inside.