In a speech announcing his plans to withdraw from the international climate agreement, President Trump highlighted the city in which the pact was made as a central argument against it. “I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris,” he said. “It is time to put Youngstown, Ohio; Detroit, Michigan; and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania — along with many, many other locations within our great country — before Paris, France.” The administration deems this rhetorical sally against France so successful it is following up with a “Pittsburgh, not Paris” rally.
Whipping up nationalist anger against France is not a strategy Trump invented. The Republican party used it to some effect in the run-up to the Iraq War, which France opposed (and was vindicated). The conservative media was filled with anti-French diatribes, including a book portraying France as America’s “oldest enemy,” while the GOP-controlled House renamed “French fries” as “freedom fries.” Since the strategy worked before — until the war it was selling turned into a catastrophe — the plan is to try it again.
In fact, France is not the “enemy” here, or even the major protagonist of the agreement Trump is denouncing. The Paris climate agreement is not designed for Parisians any more than the Yalta Treaty was designed to help Yalta or the surrender at Appomattox was constructed for the citizens of a small town in Virginia.
But perhaps the most hilarious aspect of the Trump rally is its location: Lafayette Square. Lafayette is named for the Marquis de Lafayette, a French general who played a crucial role in helping the American Revolution. Lafayette is a symbol of French sympathy for the United States and its ideals. There is literally no stupider location in the entire world to stage an anti-French American rally.