PARIS—In many ways, Emmanuel Macron is an unconventional French president. Young, independent and a political novice, he entered the Elysee Palace as a disrupter rather than a defender of the status quo. But if there is one thing that puts him in the mainstream of French presidents, it is his defense of the European Union anchored in a liberal multilateral order. And if there is one thing that puts him squarely in the grand tradition of French diplomacy more broadly, it is his love and talent for political theater.
Both were on display this weekend, when Macron took advantage of the centennial of the end of World War I, and France’s historical centrality to that commemoration, to deliver a full-throated defense of liberal multilateralism, in which he contrasted the destructive effects of nationalism with the creative potential of patriotism.
More than 60 world leaders were gathered before him, but Macron’s pointed remarks seemed directed to an audience of one: U.S. President Donald Trump, who arrived alone and late to the ceremony, and sat through Macron’s speech with a grim expression.