If President Donald Trump can give an impression of grumpiness from his frequent comments on Twitter, he's also capable of a boyish charm even at 71. It was on display on July 14 in Paris, at the annual Bastille Day parade.
The American press, obsessed with the president, recounted how enthusiastically he enjoyed the parade. The European press, obsessed with relations with America, noticed how the president’s enthusiasm suggested that he is getting along famously with the new French president, Emmanuel Macron.
Trump’s relations with Angela Merkel of Germany, and Theresa May of Great Britain? Maybe not so much fun.
But it was only fitting that Trump visited Paris on the centennial of America’s entry into World War I. The famous comment of an American officer, “Lafayette, we are here!” came as U.S. troops rescued the Allied cause in 1917-18. Next year will see the anniversaries of the bloody fighting in the Argonne Forest and other places where America swayed the balance in what was then called the Great War.
Few places in America have more cause to reflect on the U.S.-France kinship than Louisiana, named for French monarchs. One of our great cities is named for the Marquis de Lafayette, a key supporter of the American Revolution. Baton Rouge got its name during Iberville's explorations. In 2018, New Orleans will celebrate its founding 300 years ago.
The leadership of Louisiana is aware of the importance of these ties.
Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser travels this week to Quebec City, along with members of the members from the Council for the Development of French in Louisiana and tourism officials. Nungesser will sign an agreement fostering French in schools and other cultural offerings.
The history of the old country is never far from us in Louisiana, but the anniversaries of World War I are of importance for Americans whether descended from the French or not.
A Louisiana historian, Steven Rabalais, has recently written a biography of one of the key participants in the American Expeditionary Force, Gen. Fox Connor. Connor is best known now for mentoring young American officers named Dwight D. Eisenhower and George Patton, but his military reputation came from his accomplishments in the American Expeditionary Force during World War I.
Rabalais’s book vividly recounts the disputes over control of American troops — the French and British were desperate for immediate help, but Connor’s boss Gen. John J. Pershing insisted that they be trained to fight under American command.
Disputes with allies, debates over control — sounds very close to the situation facing today’s president, as real as the headlines of a century ago this year.