Last Friday, when U.S. President Donald Trump sat beside French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris for a Bastille Day parade, it was a meeting of two men who have more in common than not.
Both come from a private-sector background where results represent the bottom line. As Trump has found, an action-oriented modus operandi can be difficult to reconcile with a clunky and messy democratic political system rife with self-interest, special interests and people whose jobs are justified by perpetuating problems rather than solving them.
While Trump and Macron have both attempted to implement deep reforms since their respective elections, Macron is faring better. This is partly because the old French monarchist system hasn't changed that much: There is more power concentrated in the French presidency than in the American presidency.
In light of that power, Macron has described what he believes France needs in a leader -- and it sounds a lot like Trump. Or like Macron himself, who told Challenges magazine last fall how he viewed the role of president: "France needs a 'Jupiterian' head of state," Macron said, referring to the Roman god of gods.
Two years ago, when he was minister of economy, industry and digital affairs (and nowhere on the radar as a potential French president), Macron suggested to Le 1 newspaper that France could really use a king again.
"Democracy is always inherently incomplete because it is not sufficient by itself," Macron said. "In French politics, this absence is a king figure, whom I fundamentally don't think that the French people wanted dead." Macron added that the normalization of the presidential figure "left a void at the heart of political life."
Despite the French president's powers, what always stands in the way of progress is fear of popular revolt, nowadays led by leftist unions. Over time, however, the French seem to be realizing that these leftists never have any solutions and do little beyond getting in the way of reforms enacted by those who were democratically elected to enact them. Every recent French leader has caved to leftist pressure. Maybe it takes a guy who fancies himself king not to.
Since taking office in May and winning a crushing parliamentary majority the following month with a party that didn't even exist a year ago, Macron has moved quickly and in king-like fashion to ram through reforms to France's economic infrastructure -- including loosening the draconian French labor code and announcing tax cuts worth 11 billion euros for 2018.
If that's not enough to make Macron appear Trump-like, he has also said that the European Union must either reform or face a "Frexit." Earlier this month, Macron's government announced a plan to expedite migrant processing from 14 months to six months, and to hasten the removal of citizenship applicants who fail to qualify. Macron also announced a surprising volte-face on France's position on Syria during his joint press conference with Trump last week.
"We have one main goal, which is to eradicate terrorism," Macron said. "No matter who they are, we want to build an inclusive and sustainable political solution. Against that background, I do not require (Syrian President Bashar) Assad's departure."
The pressure on Trump from the military-industrial complex to green-light Assad's ouster has been so crushing that he has hedged (at least rhetorically) on his insistence that Assad remain in power to avoid a Syrian power vacuum. Meanwhile, Macron has backed Trump on Syria -- running counter to the Western status quo and also placing both men in the same camp as Russia on this issue.
It's no coincidence that before Macron hosted Trump, Russian President Vladimir Putin visited Macron at Versailles for the introduction of an exhibition celebrating the 300th anniversary of Peter the Great's visit to France. This is exactly where Macron should be positioning himself on the global stage: between the Eastern and Western spheres.
"We do not know how much independence France has when it comes to operational matters, because these are agreements between allies and we are not privy to that," Putin said during a press conference with Macron.
France's lack of independence in recent years has been glaring. During former U.S. President Barack Obama's tenure, France and most of the rest of the Western world positioned itself at Obama's feet.
A multipolar world, with countries checking and balancing each another, has always best served the interests of citizens around the world. Macron's position, if he can pull it off, is similar to that of former French President Charles de Gaulle, who drove the U.S. military-industrial complex mad by staking out independent positions that didn't always favor its agenda.
I, for one, would enjoy witnessing the collective meltdown of leftists and establishment elites if the American, Russian and French presidents all found themselves on the same page.