Skip to content
The Morning Dispatch: France Has a Decision to Make
Go to my account

The Morning Dispatch: France Has a Decision to Make

Emmanuel Macron is expected to win reelection, but his support has slipped since his first faceoff with Marine Le Pen.

Happy Friday! There are a lot of stupid people in this world, but only one who decided it was a good idea to pick a fight with Mike Tyson on a plane this week. If only the federal public transportation mandate had still been in effect, a mask could’ve cushioned the blows from the heavyweight boxer’s fists.

Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories

  • In response to a New York Times piece published Thursday claiming that he had privately suggested Donald Trump should resign for his role in January 6, House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy categorically denied the reporting and insisted, “The New York Times reporting on me is totally false and wrong.” McCarthy was lying. Several hours later, the authors of the piece, Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns, released an audio recording of McCarthy confirming that McCarthy had said exactly what they’d reported he’d said. “I’m seriously thinking of having that conversation with him tonight,” McCarthy said to fellow GOP leaders on a call January 10, 2021*, adding, “Again, the only discussion I would have with him is that I think this will pass, and it would be my recommendation that you should resign.”

  • Martin and Burns also reported that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell had told two top advisers that he thought Trump’s behavior on January 6 was impeachable and that many GOP senators would vote to convict the president once he was impeached by the House. “If this isn’t impeachable, I don’t know what is,” McConnell said, according to the reporting, which previews “This Will Not Pass,” a forthcoming book by Martin and Burns. McConnell predicted a strong, bipartisan vote to convict Trump.

  • President Joe Biden announced Thursday the United States will send Ukraine another $800 million worth of military equipment—including dozens of Howitzers, tactical vehicles, and drones—and $500 million in economic assistance. The United States will also prohibit Russian and Russian-affiliated ships from entering U.S. ports, unless they are carrying source material or nuclear material the Biden administration determines cannot be supplied by other means.

  • Ukrainians fleeing the war will now be able to enter the U.S. on humanitarian parole if they have a U.S. sponsor and pass security screenings and health checks. The Biden administration had announced in March the U.S. will welcome up to 100,000 Ukrainians refugees, but only 12 had been admitted through the refugee program as of last week. The humanitarian parole program—which will allow recipients to live and work in the U.S. for two years—will theoretically make it easier for Ukrainians ineligible for visas to bypass the lengthy refugee admittance process.

  • Russian forces will not storm the last Ukrainian stronghold in the city of Mariupol, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Thursday, instead blockading the Azovstal steel plant where a Marine brigade has dug in and refused to surrender. Four buses of Ukrainian civilians evacuated the city on Wednesday, and satellite imagery suggests more than 200 graves have been dug in the nearby town of Manhush that Russian forces have occupied for weeks.

  • In retaliation for sanctions, the Kremlin on Thursday issued a list of U.S. leaders it accuses of a “Russophobic agenda” and has banned from entering the country. The list includes Vice President Kamala Harris, several government officials and journalists, and tech leaders Mark Zuckerberg and Ryan Roslansky, LinkedIn CEO.

  • The Supreme Court voted 8-1 on Thursday to overturn a lower court’s ruling and reaffirm that the federal government can exclude Puerto Ricans from the Supplemental Security Income program.

  • Judge Rebecca Grady Jennings of the Western District of Kentucky granted a temporary restraining order on Thursday blocking enforcement of Kentucky’s recently enacted 15-week abortion ban. Planned Parenthood and EMW Women’s Surgical Center said they had stopped performing abortions in the state after the bill became law because it was “impossible to comply with,” but plan to resume doing so in the coming days.

  • In his final scheduled public comments before the Federal Open Market Committee’s next policy meeting on May 3, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell indicated Thursday the central bank is likely to raise interest rates by half a percentage point. “It is appropriate, in my view, to be moving a little more quickly [than the Fed did in the last tightening cycle],” Powell said. If market expectations are correct, it’d be the Fed’s first 50-basis-point hike in more than two decades and its first time raising interest rates in consecutive meetings since 2006.

  • The average number of daily confirmed COVID-19 cases in the United States has continued to increase, up 39 percent over the past two weeks but still lower than it’s been throughout most of the pandemic. The average number of daily deaths attributed to COVID-19, however, continue to fall, down 44 percent over the same time period. According to new Centers for Disease Control data, Omicron’s BA.2 variant accounted for approximately 75 percent of new COVID-19 infections in the week ending April 16, while yet another Omicron offshoot—BA.2.12.1—has grown to account for about 20 percent of cases.

  • The Labor Department reported Thursday that initial jobless claims decreased by 2,000 week-over-week to 184,000 last week, remaining near all-time lows.

French Voters Go to the Polls

French President Emmanuel Macron and challenger Marine Le Pen. (Photo by Eric Feferberg, Joel Saget /AFP via Getty Images)

If public polling is to be believed, Emmanuel Macron on Sunday will become the first French president to win reelection since Jacques Chirac in 2002. But don’t cash in those futures bets just yet.

Macron secured plurality support in the first round of voting on April 10, but failed to surpass 50 percent—teeing up a rematch with National Rally’s (née National Front) Marine Le Pen in the runoff. When the two faced off in 2017, Macron was a 39-year-old former investment banker who had just founded La République En Marche, a centrist political party. Le Pen is the youngest daughter of Jean-Marie Le Pen, the Holocaust-denying, Islamophobic, populist who led the far-right National Front party from 1972 through 2011. Marine moved to distance herself from her father, but Macron trounced her, 66 percent to 34 percent.

It’s going to be tighter this weekend, in part because the candidates have changed, and in part because France has. “The traditional center-left voter and the traditional center-right voter—who actually saw quite some appeal in Macron five years ago—are now disappointed [in him] for their own reasons,” said Matthias Matthijs, senior fellow for Europe at the Council on Foreign Relations. “On the left, they think his reforms have gone too far—he has done a lot for the rich, people with assets, but not enough for people who are struggling. And on the right, they blame him for a lack of toughness on immigration and some other issues here. It’s harder for an incumbent to get that enthusiasm, because now you have a record.”

Macron has governed much as a cosmopolitan, elite-educated former investment banker would be expected to, seeking to strengthen the European Union, reform the wealth tax, restructure the pension system, and promote investment in green energy—including nuclear. Macron sparked the populist, violent Yellow Vest protests in late 2018 by proposing a fuel tax increase and implementing other austerity measures while cutting taxes on the rich. And he sparked another round of protests earlier this year by publicly reveling in “pissing off” the unvaccinated by prohibiting them from participating in everyday activities. 

Macron’s elitism and apparent disdain for the working class has become the stuff of legend in France. In 2018, he told a 25-year-old man struggling to find work he’d be able to get a job at a restaurant or hotel if he just “crossed the street.” When a woman confronted him about his handling of the pandemic at a recent campaign stop, he told her she wasn’t “living in the real world.” Visiting a train station in 2017, he said you encounter both “people who are succeeding” and “people who are nothing.”

But luckily for Macron, he’s facing Marine Le Pen. The National Rally leader has worked diligently to soften her image over the past five years, focusing more on kitchen table issues like inflation, COVID-19 restrictions, and the pension system than the nativism and xenophobia that drove much of her 2017 bid. Whereas five years ago illegal immigration and radical Islam were at the center of her bid, today she can make it through a stump speech barely mentioning them. Her 2017 campaign advocated for France abandoning NATO, the European Union, and the euro; the 2022 version of Le Pen claims she would seek to reform the bodies from the inside. And next to the even harder-right Éric Zemmour—who promoted the Great Replacement Theory throughout his campaign—Le Pen was able to make herself seem even more reasonable.

The gambit seems to have worked, to a degree. Her polling average this cycle has consistently hovered 10 to 15 percentage points higher than her 2017 vote share, and fewer voters are telling pollsters that they’d “never” consider supporting her. Perhaps thanks to her proposed tax cuts for people under 30, Le Pen came in first among voters ages 25-34 in the first round of voting. “There’s all this lazy theorizing going on,” Matthijs told The Dispatch. “It’s the young who are voting for Le Pen, not the old. Old, white men who were attracted to Trump and Boris Johnson are not attracted to Marine Le Pen. They will vote Macron.” 

The French president visited with younger, left-wing voters in Paris on Thursday in an effort to convince them not to sit out the election, or leave their ballots blank. Jean-Luc Mélenchon—the socialist candidate who came in third in the first round of voting—has urged his supporters not to vote for Le Pen, but hasn’t explicitly endorsed Macron. “It’s like choosing between the plague and cholera,” one Mélenchon voter said of her current options. 

But Macron will most likely pull out a victory on Sunday, bolstered by the higher stakes the race took on after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Le Pen has condemned Russia’s aggression and sought to assure voters her “absolute solidarity and compassion” are with the Ukrainian people. But she opposes sanctions on Russian energy, and has been on the defensive in recent days over her previous praise of Vladimir Putin, her refusal to condemn Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014, and her party’s decision to take out a series of loans from Russian banks tied to the Kremlin. When LePen criticized Macron for hosting Putin back in 2017, Macron responded: “I hosted a head of state, not my banker.” 

Macron’s polling lead over Le Pen—within a few percentage points at one point—has returned to double digits in recent days as Le Pen has faced heightened scrutiny. She may not talk about it as much, but the first priority listed in her campaign manifesto remains stopping most immigration and prioritizing native French over immigrants in allocating government services. Her second most important proposal? “Eradicating Islamist ideologies and all their networks” from the country. She reiterated her desire this week to prohibit women from wearing headscarves in public places, though she downplayed the proposal as not being the “most urgent element” of her campaign.

Like many Americans in 2016, lots of French voters will go to the polls on Sunday disappointed with both the options in front of them. But the country’s decision will have ramifications for France—and the world—for years to come. “It’s either a broad continuity with the current pro-Western, pro-EU, even pro-NATO status quo, or it’s a big jump in the unknown,” Matthijs said. “Much of Le Pen’s program is incompatible with EU membership. It would mean withdrawing from NATO’s military commands—all at a moment where Western unity is highly prized. It would be a body blow, I think to Western institutions. The sky wouldn’t fall, but it would lead to years of policy paralysis for Europe and the West.”

Worth Your Time

  • With all the online controversy swirling around the House of Mouse, Sonny Bunch recounts his recent Disney World vacation and provides an important reality check. “The trip wasn’t simply a reprieve from Twitter and the angry rhetoric that defines that digital morass. It was a reminder of just how divorced from reality such spaces and such language really are,” he writes. “‘It’s A Small World’ remains a compilation of national stereotypes. The men’s and women’s rooms are still clearly marked. And Americana remains alive and well at Tom Sawyer Island, which is located across the way from the Hall of Presidents and encircled by a moat patrolled by the Liberty Belle paddleboat. … Guests in Orlando didn’t appear to be fighting the culture wars, digging through viral videos or engaging in vicious pile-ons for the sake of scoring social media points. They were focused on planning their rides to minimize wait times, figuring out where to go for parades or a quick snack and trying to coordinate photos with characters, a significantly trickier activity in the covid-19 era. And they appeared happier for it. I know I was.”

Presented Without Comment

Also Presented Without Comment

Also Presented Without Comment

Toeing the Company Line

  • On the site today, Virginia Hume has a piece it’s hard to find the right word for—slobberknocker? jeremiad? tour-de-force?—anyway, it’s 6,000 definitive, convicting words on the institutional failings that characterized the past two years of our COVID response. Give it a read.

  • This week’s edition of The Current includes a simple request for Congress before turning to China’s approach to cyber operations and how they could one day be deployed against Taiwan. “Taiwan is catastrophically vulnerable to Chinese cyber aggression,” Klon writes. “The island’s critical infrastructure, government services, and key military capabilities already endure between 20 million and 40 million cyber attacks every month, with the vast majority of these coming from China.”

  • Thomas Chatterton Williams stopped by The Remnant on Thursday for a conversation with Jonah about race in America. How can the United States move away from racial categories while preserving a diverse culture? How should we define American values? Is it beneficial to spend time living in a foreign country?

  • On the latest episode of Advisory Opinions, David and Sarah dive into the nationwide injunction ending the Biden administration’s travel mask mandate. Plus: Gov. Ron DeSantis and the First Amendment, and an amusing example of Uber getting exactly what it asked for … and not liking it at all.

  • Thursday’s Stirewaltisms (🔒) focuses on the federal public transportation mask mandate, and what it says about Biden’s presidency. “By handling the issue this way,” Chris writes, “Biden deprives himself of the upside that he would get for actually doing something but still looks weak to the people he is trying to impress.”

Let Us Know

If you were Kevin McCarthy, would you be more concerned about Donald Trump’s reaction to the audio of your call for his resignation or embarrassed by the fact that you lied and the audio exposes your dishonesty to the world? 

Correction, April 22, 2022: Kevin McCarthy’s call with Republican leadership took place in January 2021, not 2022.

Declan Garvey is the executive editor at the Dispatch and is based in Washington, D.C. Prior to joining the company in 2019, he worked in public affairs at Hamilton Place Strategies and market research at Echelon Insights. When Declan is not assigning and editing pieces, he is probably watching a Cubs game, listening to podcasts on 3x speed, or trying a new recipe with his wife.

Esther Eaton is a former deputy editor of The Morning Dispatch.

Steve Hayes is the editor and CEO of The Dispatch.