Among the many listeners who believed he heard some telling inconsistencies in President Trump's first address to the U.N. General Assembly was one Western leader who hopes to help Trump resolve the contradictions.
French President Emmanuel Macron, who also met with Trump on the sidelines of the U.N. meeting, noted that Trump's speech contained both isolationist themes familiar from his 2016 campaign and elements that sounded more like a George W. Bush address. Macron believes the isolationist route would be a dead end for the United States, and he said he told the president as much.
And, on Iran, climate change and other matters, Macron offered suggestions for how he believes Trump might be drawn into a more internationalist approach.
"We have to push very hard for him to act in the framework of the multilateral approach," Macron said Wednesday, speaking in English to a small group of American journalists in the French U.N. mission. "I think it's feasible. At least, I consider that's my mission.
"And why?" the French president continued. "Because I do need the United States. We are great partners with the U.S. — in the Sahel, in the Mideast. We work very closely against terrorism."
Macron, who also met this week with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, laid out a proposal that he thinks could meet U.S. concerns about Iranian behavior without blowing up the Iran nuclear agreement, which Trump lambasted as an "embarrassment" in his speech.
Macron argued that for the United States to abrogate the agreement would simply strengthen Iran's global position while leaving the United States with no follow-up options. "What's the scenario?" Macron asked. "We will put ourselves in the North Korea situation . . . and discover in X number of years that they have a nuclear weapon."
Instead, he asked, what if the West treats the nuclear agreement as only the first of four pillars in an evolving relationship with Iran — with the United States taking a "leadership position" in negotiating the broader agreement?
The second pillar would concern ballistic missiles. Macron said Iran has become more aggressive since 2015 and therefore France would support new sanctions if an agreement could not be reached. But he said this issue should not be linked to the nuclear one.
The third pillar — negotiations on which also should begin "right now" — would concern Iran's nuclear status after 2025, when the nuclear agreement expires.
And the fourth would concern Iran's agenda in the region "in order to have a proper containment strategy," Macron said. He said he told Rouhani that Iran is making many people in the region nervous and making the United States nervous with its behavior.
Leading this broader approach, Macron said, would give the West the high ground. "The current tension doesn't put us in the best position," he said. "The risk is to be the one to disrespect the agreement, which is a mistake."
Macron said he tried to interest Trump in a similar approach on climate change. As with the Iran agreement, the French president said he believes that Trump's first motivation for tearing up the deal was that it was negotiated by President Barack Obama. But he said he believes that Trump also thinks his voters don't like it and would be harmed by it, and that he could negotiate a better deal.
Macron said he made clear to Trump that France will support no renegotiation. But again he tried to suggest that Trump could find a winning political strategy without abandoning the deal. He said he pointed out that many of Trump's middle-class voters will be hurt by hurricanes and other effects of climate change — and that many of them could be helped if the United States embraced innovation and the new jobs that it could bring.
"What we need is for President Trump to find something belonging to him regarding climate change," Macron said. "I want to convince him the solution is not to break what we have," just as with the Iran deal.
Did he think the U.S. president was persuaded? Macron wouldn't go that far, but said he noted that Trump didn't mention climate change at all in his address. "It's very complicated to implement what he has announced, and part of his people are not in favor of leaving," Macron said.
Some observers have speculated that lectures from European leaders helped spur Trump to pull out of the Paris climate accord. But the French president rejected that theory.
His talks with Trump are always "very friendly," Macron said.
"I'm extremely direct, and he's extremely direct," he said.
No fact-checker needed for that one.
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