The departing French ambassador made headlines for criticizing President Donald Trump on his way out of Washington, D.C., but he also had some complimentary things to say.
Gerard Araud referred to the president as a political genius and sympathized with his antagonistic relationship to the press in interviews prompted by his retirement from his post last week. He’s been critical of Democrats for missing what he says was a foreseeable result of economic angst in 2016, and advised Trump opponents to drop the hysterics and consider the points he is raising.
“I do think the genius – and I’m using the word genius – of Donald Trump is to have felt the crisis,” he told New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd, echoing remarks he made to Politico in which he said Trump’s genius was understanding the “malaise” felt by much of the country going into the 2016 election. That same malaise is what he believes is driving unrest in France and other countries shifting toward nationalist and populist politics.
“People are so appalled by the behavior of the president that they listen a bit too much to their guts instead of really listening to the brain,” he told Politico, adding that Trump is raising legitimate issues and questions as president.
“We have to address the concerns of these people,” he said. “It’s a serious crisis of our democracy.”
Although Gerard is no Trump supporter, he seems to relate personally to the president in at least a couple of ways: in his “big mouth” and distaste for Washington. “The press, to be frank, is so anti-Trump that I do understand that the natural reaction of Trump is to go over the head of the press,” he said, regarding his tendency to use Twitter as his mouthpiece.
He also complimented Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner as a “smart guy” and spoke positively of a conversation he had with the White House immigration hawk, Stephen Miller.
Araud told Dowd he’s looking forward to leaving D.C. and its “sad” baggy suits behind. “You have a city that feels frightened and personally attacked by Trump,” he told Dowd. “At every dinner, you have anecdotes about Donald Trump. And you leave Washington, D.C., and you can spend two days in Seattle and Chicago and nobody says the word ‘Trump.'”
He and his husband plan to move to New York.