The French president warned that trade wars, rather than trade deals, "destroy jobs" and raise prices for the middle class. He appealed to the U.S. to rejoin the Paris climate accord and create a "low-carbon economy" because "there is no Planet B." He said remaining with America's allies in the Iran nuclear deal, at least until some replacement is negotiated, is the best path for fighting terrorism, preserving peace and avoiding nuclear proliferation.
Reaction from lawmakers was far more positive than anyone could have predicted during the Bush-era estrangement of France and the U.S. over the Iraq War. It packed all the more punch following his public displays of warmth and friendship with Trump during the first state visit of the new American presidency.
"A strong speech," said conservative Alabama Rep. Bradley Byrne, although like other Republicans he disagrees with Macron on the climate accord and Iran deal.
In its uplifting tone and invocation of shared values, the speech evoked the 2004 convention address that helped turn then little-known Barack Obama into the leader of the Democratic Party. Macron did not call out Trump by name, just as Obama then did not call out Republican President George W. Bush. Both punctuated their speeches with an "I believe" peroration appealing to hope over fear.
"Against cynicism, trust and good faith," Macron said. He cast "intelligently regulated market economies" as the path for preserving globalization's benefits while reducing the destabilizing inequality it has caused at the same time.
There's reason to doubt that Macron's combination of flattering personal diplomacy and idealistic rhetoric can nudge the Trump administration in his direction. His top near-term goal is persuading the White House not to scuttle the Iran nuclear deal next month. Last year, he failed on a similar mission to convince Trump to remain in the Paris climate deal.
Yet Macron offered momentary comfort to foreign policy veterans of past administrations — the "establishment" Trump has disdained — who fear for the future of institutions such as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the World Trade Organization.
Richard Haass, a former aide to both presidents Bush who now runs the Council on Foreign Relations, recently wrote an essay declaring "Liberal World Order, R.I.P." due to Trumpism and other threats.
With Britain's Theresa May enmeshed in Brexit and Germany's Angela Merkel hobbled politically, Haass welcomed Macron's spirited defense.
"It was refreshing to hear that from a French leader, and disappointing that we don't hear it from an American leader," he said. "The President of France is the de facto leader of the West."