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French press review 16 April 2018

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French President Emmanuel Macron was on television yesterday. He's all over the papers this morning.


Le Monde, Le Figaro and Libération all give the front-page honours to the president, aggressively interviewed on television for about two and a half hours yesterday.

It has been a busy week for the French leader, with a lunchtime chat last Thursday on TF1, followed by yesterday's far more muscular confrontation with Jean-Jacques Bourdin of BFMTV and Edwy Plenel of the news website Mediapart.

The president is approaching the end of his first year at the helm and chose a Paris theatre as the venue for this interview, with the Eiffel Tower as background. The man, as we have come to realise, is fond of symbols.

Aggressive interviewing

He's probably not so fond of yesterday's interrogators, Bourdin and Plenel.

The two boys tried to tear into the president like a pair of famished ferrets. The questions were, says Le Monde, frequently abrupt and forced the head of state on several occasions to reproach the ferrets for their "tendentious approach", even accusing them of being tub-thumpers and demagogues.

The president was anxious to present himself as a man who listens to the various national expressions of anger, among rail workers, for example, or pensioners, or university students, or hospital staff. But he was also anxious to insist on his determination to see through reforms he deems necessary.

"My aim," he stressed, "is to bring the country together. But that can't be done by refusing to change things and by giving in to the tyranny of certain minorities."

Eleven months after taking the top job, Macron refuses to accept the idea that the various disgruntled groups are converging in a sort of national wave of discontent. He remains determined to enforce deep structural changes in both the private sector and the public services.

He insists that he's just following the recipe laid out in his election programme.

Fighting president fails to land big punches

Left-leaning Libération says the president was in fighting form but found him pugnacious rather than convincing.

Libé's editorial is devoted to the question of the allied air strikes against a number of targets in Syria, to which much of yesterday's television interview with the French leader was devoted.

Libération says the reactions of the mainstream-right Republicans, far right and hard left prove that the credibility of Marine Le Pen, Jean-Luc Mélenchon and Laurent Wauquiez on questions of foreign affairs is close to zero.

Le Pen has cast doubt on the claims that a chemical weapons attack took place.

Mélenchon has deplored a military action undertaken "without proof".

Such an attitude, says Libé, runs in the face of evidence from independent observers and from humanitarian workers on the ground in Eastern Ghouta. It is also to forget earlier chemical attacks by the Assad regime against civilians, attacks which have since been confirmed by UN inspection teams.

As for the right-wing Republicans party, critics of an action which they claim has simply added "war to the war", Libé says Friday's attacks apparently killed no one and were against chemical weapons installations only.

The allied action was intended to sanction obvious infringements of international law, it argues, and to send a message to Assad's chief supporter, Russian President Vladimir Putin, that a negotiated political settlement of the Syrian disaster is long overdue.

Those who criticise Friday's action by implicitly calling for further inaction in the face of barbarity have, says Libé, a grave responsibility.

A useless waste of time

Le Figaro's editorial on the presidential TV talk show is headlined "Useless".

The French leader should have left it at Thursday's lunchtime chat with Jean-Pierre Pernaud. At least his answers were audible.

Not so yesterday before the inquisition carried out by those self-proclaimed professors of political morality, Bourdin and Plenel, it says.

Le Figaro finds the atmosphere was more boxing match than debate. The underlying determination was to present a leader who is a warmonger, a friend of the rich, an accomplice of the tax evader.

It should have been a critical look-back on a year in power. In fact it was a waste of time, the right-wing paper concludes.