‘Make France Great Again’ is certainly not the first thing that jumps to mind when predicting what the President of the United States will be tweeting on Remembrance Day. Yet, in the midst of commemorating the 100th anniversary of World War I, Donald Trump managed to become embroiled in a one-way spat with his French counterpart, Emmanuel Macron.
Trump, so deeply infuriated by Macron’s Armistice speech, in which the French President uncompromisingly denounced the rising tide of populism as a deep betrayal of patriotism, deemed it necessary to ridicule Macron, taunting him over his low approval rating and France’s 10% unemployment rate. Macron wasn’t innocent of any foul play himself. Indeed, his decision to take a swipe at those who espouse nationalist sentiment, while standing just metres away from Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin, was far from the most appropriate manner in which to remember those who gave their lives during the First World War. Yet, irrespective of Macron’s own delinquencies, Trump’s reaction to the speech was not far short of pathetic, and epitomised the President’s obsession with his own self-image. Trump’s frequent fellow-world-leader-bashing Twitter tirades have become a common theme of his presidency, and say far more about him than those he attempts to denounce.
Yet, the confrontation with Macron was not even the most obvious illustration of President Trump’s narcissism to arise during the presidential visit to France. Just a day earlier, the President pulled out of attending a Remembrance Day Service at Aisne-Marne cemetery and memorial due to adverse weather conditions in the area. The inability of the President’s Marine One helicopter to fly in heavy rain or fog was the official explanation given by the White House Press Secretary. Irrespective of this, the idea that poor weather should stop the President of the United States attending a memorial service commemorating 100 years since the First World War, at the site where over 2,000 American service personnel who died are laid to rest, is nothing short of a disgrace.
Ben Rhodes, a former senior advisor to President Obama, trashed the White House’s pitiful excuse, explaining “there is always a rain option” in the President’s travel arrangements. Aside from being awfully disrespectful, Trump’s decision not to attend the Remembrance Day service was just one of a number of instances in which the President has failed to show empathy. So too is Trump’s recent politicisation of the California wildfires, in which he deemed it appropriate to complain about the state’s forest management, rather than pay his respects to the 76 people who lost their lives. The President’s failure to identify with the needs of others does him no favours with regards to dismissing the idea he is too focused on his self-image.
A further round of Trump lambasting was stimulated by the President’s recent confrontation with CNN White House Correspondent Jim Acosta during a White House press briefing; Trump this time ridiculed for becoming involved in a 20-second shouting match with Acosta in front of the world media. The furore that has erupted since, culminating in a Washington DC court ordering the White House to return Acosta’s press pass following its initial revocation by the Secret Service, brought unnecessary and avoidable attention to Trump’s White House, once again demonstrating Trump’s tendency to direct the focus on himself. However, this time round, Trump was not the only one guilty of self-obsession.
The media have become so fixated on standing up to Trump and all that he espouses that, rather than covering the news in an objective fashion, they have become attention-seeking narcissists themselves, and the Acosta-Trump incident illustrated this perfectly. For all that can be said about politicians having the responsibility to fulfil their duties as representatives of the state and acting in the people’s interests, rather than obsessing over their self-image as Trump has fairly been accused of doing, the media certainly have a similar responsibility with regards to their conduct.
In fact, unlike politicians, who are expected to display partisanship and shade the truth in order to achieve their own political goals, the media claim objectivity in the work they do. In this regard, when Jim Acosta, having been initially called upon to ask whatever question he liked to the President of the United States, proceeded to interrupt the President with follow-up question after follow-up question, before being asked to sit down. He subsequently engaged in a tussle over a microphone with a White House intern. The media themselves seem to be becoming self-obsessed.
In light of the growing number of political activists in the media ranks such as Jim Acosta, it is of little surprise that, according to a Politico/Morning Consult poll, 64% of Americans believe the media has done more to divide the country than unite it. Donald Trump’s obsession with his self-image is there for all to see, but the media are not half guilty of it too.