France’s centrist presidential candidate picks up a key ally: Barack Obama.
Former President Barack Obama called current French presidential frontrunner Emmanuel Macron today, and it was frankly adorable.
Macron was so excited about it that he tweeted a video clip of him talking to Obama over a speakerphone, flags of the European Union and France conspicuously draped behind the desk.
— Emmanuel Macron (@EmmanuelMacron) April 20, 2017
Here’s a transcript of the tweeted video:
MACRON: [cheerfully]: “Hello, Mr. President, how are you?”
OBAMA: Is this Emmanuel?
MACRON: Yeah. Exactly.
OBAMA: Well, I’m doing very well! How are you? Can you hear me?
MACRON: Yes, I hear you very well.
OBAMA: The main message I have is to wish you all the best in the coming days. And make sure, as you said, that you work very hard all the way through because you never know — it might be that last day of campaigning—
MACRON: I do agree—
OBAMA: —that makes all the difference.
MACRON: I will do my best, believe me. And … so I will fight to the last minute, and we will keep in touch, and our teams will organize a new contact to see how to work together if I’m going to the runoff. Thank you very much. I do appreciate that you took the time.
OBAMA: Good Luck.
The exchange was notable for several reasons — for one, Macron is a candidate, not a president-elect, and he is an upstart: Only 39, he’s a former banker turned politician and has never held elected office. But he has one major thing going for him: He’s seen as France’s last, best chance of keeping far-right leader Marine Le Pen from becoming the country’s next president. And that, in turn, is almost certainly why Obama spoke to him.
Obama spokesperson Kevin Lewis stressed, somewhat unconvincingly, that Obama’s call shouldn’t be seen as an endorsement of Macron:
President Obama appreciated the opportunity to hear from Mr. Macron about his campaign and the important upcoming presidential election in France, a country that President Obama remains deeply committed to as a close ally of the United States, and as a leader on behalf of liberal values in Europe and around the world. An endorsement was not the purpose of the call, as President Obama is not making any formal endorsement in advance of the run-off election on Sunday.
It may not have been an endorsement, but it was about as close as you could come; recently retired American presidents don’t typically call political candidates in other countries, and Obama doesn’t seem to have reached out to any French leader but Macron.
The call was a not very subtle underscoring of what is at stake in France’s upcoming election: the future of Europe. The French election has come down to a race between a centrist moderate willing to keep borders (reasonably) open versus a far-right populist who would pull the country out of international treaties and try to stop all immigration into France.
It’s hard to imagine Obama will be making a call to Marine Le Pen anytime soon.