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‘You’re hurting my country’: Why French President Macron confronted Joe Manchin at Davos

In French politics, President Emmanuel Macron is neither as conservative as former President Nicolas Sarkozy nor as far to the left as the late President Francois Mitterrand (a long-time Socialist Party member). And Macron is nowhere near as far to the right as Marine Le Pen, the extremist National Rally candidate he defeated in two presidential elections.

Macron is very much a centrist. But in Europe, centrists and conservatives are much more likely to be green energy-friendly than the American right. And according to reporting in Politico, Macron called out Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin’s trade and energy policies when the two of them met in Washington, D.C. in late 2022.

Politico reporters Alexander Ward and Suzanne Lynch, in an article published on January 19, explain, “On the eve of a state dinner at the White House, Macron confronted Sen. Joe Manchin, the West Virginia Democrat, with a blunt accusation. ‘You’re hurting my country,’ Macron told Manchin, the senator recounted in an interview with Politico.”

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Macron’s comment, according to Ward and Lynch, “captured the wounded feelings and political frustrations of America’s allies in Europe” after the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 was passed. In order to get Manchin and another centrist, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, on board, President Joe Biden and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer had to do a lot of maneuvering. And Manchin, the Politico reporters note, “did more to shape the final version of the law than any legislator.”

The final version of the bill included some subsidies for green energy, although not as many as the more liberal and progressive members of the Democratic Party would have liked. Manchin has been a staunch defender of fossil fuels.

Macron, according to Ward and Lynch, was upset with Manchin from both a trade standpoint and an energy standpoint. But when Manchin attended the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland recently, he defended his support for “made-in-America manufacturing rules” that have “thrown the transatlantic economic relationship into turmoil.”

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“Now, Manchin has marched into the den of the European elite, mingling at the World Economic Forum in Davos with an audience of continental technocrats, true-believing free traders and oligarchs more at ease in Monte Carlo than Morgantown, West Virginia, where Manchin played college football,” they report. “The gulf in political and cultural sensibilities could scarcely have been starker. In the Swiss Alps, Manchin was determined to change the minds of men and women who see him as the face of a new American rival, the cause of a great rupture in transatlantic economic relations. Now, having made the trip across the Atlantic, he’s trying to put the pieces back together. He has been in one mode and one mode only here: sell, baby, sell.”

Manchin, according to Ward and Lynch, is “unabashedly proud of his role in shaping” the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022. But his challenge at the World Economic Forum in Davos was trying to sell it to Europeans.

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“Manchin is proud that he was able to have frank conversations with allies about a disagreement, having them learn from him and him learn from them,” Ward and Lynch report. “But he was surprised by the rancor and confusion he encountered from European officials who felt blindsided by America’s robust industrial policy.”

Manchin, interviewed by Politico, said that when he met Macron in Washington, D.C., he told the French president, “I will sit down and work with you in any way, shape or form to relieve your concerns and fears that we’re trying to basically do any harm to you or your society.”

Manchin is up for reelection in 2024, although he has yet to say whether or not he plans to seek another term in the U.S. Senate. Liberals and progressives have often expressed their frustration with Manchin, but Democratic strategists are reportedly worried that if Manchin doesn’t run for reelection, that seat will go to a Republican candidate — as West Virginia is a deep red Appalachian state, and Manchin is a rare example of a Democrat capable of winning a statewide race there.

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