For the last three months journalists across the world have been missing the curious mix of bombast, arrogance, untruths and showmanship that was President Donald Trump. But is a new unlikely figure now filling that void? As an embattled, insecure incumbent staring down the barrel of defeat in an upcoming presidential contest dominated by Covid, Emmanuel Macron must be hoping his fate doesn't play out like the Donald's. But as France's third wave of Covid gets underway, the country's president appears to be taking tips from his one time counterpart on pandemic leadership.
The French newspaper Le Monde today reports a series of fawning quotes from Macron's aides who now call him 'the president epidemologist.' One gushing insider praises his ability to 'challenge' the health ministry and its official advisers: 'He consults all the studies as soon as they are published. To the point that, sometimes, the president can bring up one that the experts in front of him have not even read.' Where has Mr S heard such glutinous praise about a leader's genius? Trump of course was always more forthright on such themes – complaining in October that he was 'tired of hearing Fauci and all these idiots' – but no less vain about his abilities once complaining 'I felt it was a pandemic long before it was called a pandemic.'
Both men of course have a history of peddling vaccine misinformation. Whereas Trump preferred bleach and claims that Covid was 'going to go away without a vaccine', Macron, the great epidemiologist, instead preferred to throw doubt on the efficacy of vaccination, claiming in December: 'We don't know everything... It's worrying.' He subsequently followed that up by asserting without evidence that the AstraZeneca jab is only 'quasi-ineffective' for those over the age of 65.
Then there is the refusal of both presidents to concede any failure on Covid. Asked on Thursday if he had any regrets about refusing to impose a third national lockdown in January, Macron was unapologetic: 'We didn't have the explosion of cases that every model predicted. There won't be a mea culpa from me. I don't have remorse and won't acknowledge failure.'
Where has Mr S heard that before...