PARIS — "Paris sera toujours Paris ..." When French singer Maurice Chevalier first released the classic tune in 1939, the aim was to brighten the mood of the curfew-burdened French capital as war approached, assuring them that "Paris will always be Paris."
Fast-forward nearly eight decades and another kind of showman has been trying to convince the world that: "Paris is no longer Paris."
The comment was shared by Donald Trump, allegedly originally traced to a certain "Jim," a "friend" of the American president and "very substantial guy," who "loves the City of Lights." Trump says his pal used to travel to the French capital every summer with his family. But then, Islamic terrorists struck the Charlie Hebdo magazine and the Bataclan concert hall, among other targets, and Jim stopped going to Paris.
But that hasn't stopped Trump from landing in the French capital this morning to take part in tomorrow's Bastille Day celebrations.
Many have been wondering whether Jim exists at all, anywhere else than in the mind of the U.S. president, but it matters little. Trump cited that sentence at a rally in February, which echoed something he had already said early on in his presidential campaign: "The real Paris is a different Paris than the City of Lights that you read about." At least, he didn't call it a "hellhole," which he reserved for Brussels.
Trump's visit, if it goes well, is also a good opportunity for a pragmatic Macron.
So why come to Paris at all? For Philippe Gélie, Washington correspondent for the French daily Le Figaro, French President Emmanuel Macron's invitation was actually an offer he couldn't refuse, given all the hot water he faces back in Washington over the investigation into Russia’s meddling in last year’s election. "For this man of order, appearances, and pomp, sickened by the constant contestation he's subjected to in the U.S., Emmanuel Macron's offer to come to Paris as a guest of honor for the July 14 celebrations was almost irresistible," Gélie writes.
Trump's visit, if it goes well, is also a good opportunity for a pragmatic Macron to rekindle the French-American relationship, regardless of who sits in the Oval Office, and lift France back to the very top rungs of global diplomacy. The French president has clearly stated that the destruction of ISIS and the fight against terrorism are his top priorities, and welcoming Trump on the one-year anniversary of the Nice attack, which killed 86 people, sends a strong signal.
Still, plenty of French citizens are not happy to see Donald Trump parading down the Champs-Élysées. In a column penned for the French business daily Les Échos and translated by Worldcrunch, French philosopher Gaspard Koenig wonders: "Why would France ruin its own party for a president that American history will reject as a regrettable dysfunction of its institutions?" Maybe just to prove yet again that even in the darkest of times, Paris will always be Paris.