This week's White House visit by French President Francois Hollande has prompted Beltway talk of a new love affair between the United States and France. While McClatchy announced "Obama, Hollande declare U.S. and France bosom buddies again," the Washington Post reported "Obama and Hollande stress common ground." The Post's Dana Milbank went further in describing "Obama's dalliance with the French." Writing in Milbank's paper, the two presidents co-authored a joint op-ed highlighting the nations' close cooperation on Libya, Syria and the Iranian nuclear program, declaring:
A decade ago, few would have imagined our two countries working so closely together in so many ways. But in recent years our alliance has transformed. Since France's return to NATO's military command four years ago and consistent with our continuing commitment to strengthen the NATO- European Union partnership, we have expanded our cooperation across the board. We are sovereign and independent nations that make our decisions based on our respective national interests. Yet we have been able to take our alliance to a new level because our interests and values are so closely aligned.To be sure, America's relations with France began to improve the moment George W. Bush left the Oval Office and took his "Freedom Fries" with him. But the Franco-American alliance also in part owes its renewed strength to our good fortune that neither John McCain nor Mitt Romney succeeded Bush as our France-bashing Commander-in-Chief.
As President Bush prepared to pull the trigger on the Iraq war in February 2003, John McCain was at the forefront of those browbeating France for its refusal to back the U.S. at the United Nations. On February 10, 2003, McCain declared on MSNBC's Hardball:
"Look, I don't mean to try to be snide, but the Lord said the poor will always be with us. The French will always be with us, too."Please read below the fold for more on this article.
McCain's venom toward the French was on full display two days later during a speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. On February 13, 2003, McCain warned of "new threats to civilization [which] again defy our imagination in scale and potency" portrayed Iraq as "threat of the first order." He proclaimed that "the United States does not have reliable allies to implement a policy to contain Iraq" and pointed the finger squarely at France:
"Compare our great power allies in the Cold War with those with whom we act today in dealing with Iraq.Then on the 18th, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's Lateline program highlighted McCain's antipathy toward France:
France has unashamedly pursued a concerted policy to dismantle the UN sanctions regime, placing its commercial interests above international law, world peace and the political ideals of Western civilization. Remember them? Liberte, egalite, fraternite."
Here's how influential Senator John McCain sees the French.As for Mitt Romney, who spent his Vietnam War years as a missionary in Paris instead of the rice paddies of Southeast Asia, France is a symbol of everything the United States should never be. And during his 2008 and 2012 presidential campaign, "France" was the reason he claimed neither Hillary Clinton nor Barack Obama should be in the White House.
JOHN MCCAIN, REPUBLICAN SENATOR: They remind me of an aging movie actress in the 1940s who is still trying to dine out on her looks but doesn't have the face for it.
NORMAN HERMANT: Many in Washington are now saying relations with France have been a problem going all the way back to the end of World War II.
SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN: Perhaps Churchill and Roosevelt made a very serious mistake when they decided to give France a veto in the Security Council when the United Nations was organized.
Throughout 2012, Governor Romney assailed President Obama for supposedly wanting to create "an entitlement society" in which "government should create equal outcomes." As he put it in Iowa, "I think he believes America should become a European-style welfare state." Then after his victory in New Hampshire, Romney repeated that Obama "wants to turn America into a European-style entitlement society" and "takes his inspiration from the capitals of Europe."
And during his failed 2008 effort to secure the GOP nomination, Romney made no secret of which European capital he meant. In February 2007, the Boston Globe obtained a 77-slide Powerpoint presentation laying out the Romney campaign's approach for the challenges and competitors he would face in 2008. The document detailed strategies for overcoming his reputation as a "flip-flopper," addressing his Mormon faith, defeating John McCain and, most of all, beating Hillary Clinton in the general election. If the language drafted by his consultant Alex Castellanos sounded familiar (the same Alex Castellanos who then as now serves as a CNN regular despite calling Hillary Clinton a "bitch" on the air), it should:
The plan, for instance, indicates that Romney will define himself in part by focusing on and highlighting enemies and adversaries, such common political targets as "jihadism," the "Washington establishment," and taxes, but also Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, "European-style socialism," and, specifically, France. Even Massachusetts, where Romney has lived for almost 40 years, is listed as one of those "bogeymen," alongside liberalism and Hollywood values...Luckily for citizens on both sides of the Atlantic, neither John McCain nor Mitt Romney finished first. Which helps explain why the relationship between the United States and France is now first-rate.
Enmity toward France, where Romney did his Mormon mission during college, is a recurring theme of the document. The European Union, it says at one point, wants to "drag America down to Europe's standards," adding: "That's where Hillary and Dems would take us. Hillary = France." The plan even envisions "First, not France" bumper stickers.