Trump rolls out red carpet, hosts first state dinner for Macrons

MOUNT VERNON • The French and American presidents walked in step as they approached George Washington's historic Mount Vernon mansion overlooking the Potomac River, their stiletto-clad wives following as a harpist serenaded the glamorous double date.

Mr Donald Trump's answer to a lavish Eiffel Tower dinner last summer at the invitation of Mr Emmanuel Macron, Monday's theatricality set the stage for the US President's first state dinner.

Getting the full red carpet treatment at the White House, Mr Macron rolled into the West Wing from Lafayette Square - named after the storied French general who fought in America's war of independence - beneath dozens of fluttering tricolour French flags and before a full US military colour guard.

Waiting at the door, the US President smiled and held out his hand for Mr Macron to shake, and the French leader kissed him on both cheeks.

Later, the first couples had dinner at Mount Vernon, the mansion that was the home of George Washington, the first US president.

They talked about the state of the US economy, Mr Trump's approval rating, the US mid-term elections in November, Internet regulation and the fight against Islamist terror, said Mr Macron's office.

In public, France and the United States are keen to emphasise their historic relationship - recalling that France was the first ally of American revolutionaries fighting for independence.

Mr Macron brought with him an oak sapling that he and Mr Trump planted at the White House on Monday as a symbol of friendship. It comes from near the site of the Battle of Belleau Woods in northern France, where 2,000 US Marines died at the end of World War I.

On a personal level, despite sharp differences in political background, age and lifestyle, the presidents seem to have struck up a bond as fellow outsiders who outwitted the establishment to gain power.

"We have a very special relationship because both of us are probably the maverick of the systems on both sides," Mr Macron told Fox News, Mr Trump's favourite television channel.

Mr Trump himself told Mr Macron that their "friendship" was "unbreakable" during his trip to Paris last year.

When asked about their first encounter - a much-scrutinised six-second handshake during a Nato summit last May - Mr Macron acknowledged it was a "very direct, lucid moment" that had set the tone between them.

"And a very friendly moment," he added. "It was to say, now, we will work together."

Yesterday, the Trumps held their first state dinner, playing host to the Macrons at the glittery event at the White House which the First Lady and her staff had spent months preparing for, the White House said as it released pictures and a 38-second video of Mrs Trump overseeing the details.

The dinner, with greens from the White House kitchen garden, showcased "the best of America's cuisines and traditions, with nuances of French influences", the White House said.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 25, 2018, with the headline 'Trump rolls out red carpet, hosts first state dinner for Macrons'. Print Edition | Subscribe