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Emmanuel Macron or Tom Cruise in "Top Gun"?
Emmanuel Macron or Tom Cruise in “Top Gun”? – Arnold Jerocki/AP/SIPA

Here's why Macron dressed up as Tom Cruise from 'Top Gun' to see the military

To meet the Air Force, this Thursday, July 20, Emmanuel Macron donned an aviator outfit, Tom Cruise style in “Top Gun”. A very calculated initiative to belong to their “tribe”… and with mixed success.

Tom Cruise President of France? Some viewers were able to doubt for a few seconds, this Thursday, July 21, observing this thirty-year-old in aviator's uniform patting on the back of the soldiers of the nuclear air base of Istres (Bouches-du-Rhone). After blinking several times, they had to face the facts: it was not the star of Top Gun but of Emmanuel Macron, the French head of state. He simply wanted to put on the air force uniform to visit his troops.

Two days after the outcome of the de Villiers affair, which led to the resignation of the Chief of the Defense Staff, such attention was obviously not fortuitous. According to Caroline Baly, image consultant at the Image Nouvelle agency, Emmanuel Macron wanted to tell the soldiers that he was interested in them: “ Dressing like a soldier when you go to meet the army refers to the sociological concept of tribe. We encourage identification by sending a message such as 'I am part of your group, so we can work together'.” The Head of State was not exactly at his first attempt: on July 4, he had visited the Le Terrible submarine, on Ile Longue (Finistère), in French Navy uniform.

The de Gaulle precedent

 However, this effort remains extremely rare. From the memory of a soldier, it has been at least fifty years since a President of the Republic had worn the military uniform to meet the army. “To my knowledge, dressing as a soldier to meet the army is quite unusual. It must be said that the previous presidents, whether Giscard, Mitterrand, Chirac or even the last two, had all done their military service. They didn't have much to prove at that level.“, explains Michel Goya, former adviser to the Chief of the Defense Staff, now an essayist and host of the specialized blog The Way of the Sword. A Head of State dressed as a soldier during his term of office only refers to General de Gaulle, tireless wearer of the kepi. On April 23, 1961, the first president of the Fifth Republic even appeared in a general's uniform on television to deliver his famous speech on the “quarter of retired generals”, the day after the Algiers putsch.

Emmanuel Macron in the footsteps of General de Gaulle? Not quite. Unlike the Amiennois, the man from Colombey-les-deux-Eglises was a career soldier, who regularly wore the kepi and jacket. Also, when he appeared in uniform, no one thought of making an event out of it. This nuance makes all the difference according to Caroline Baly: “A sartorial attention is successful when it is subtle, when it is a variation of the usual outfit. Otherwise, we fall into disguise. We end up saying to ourselves that it is not natural, therefore not sincere".

In the case of the current President, the numerous reactions to his attire clearly suggests that he has gone a bit too far. However, Caroline Baly considers that the communication coup is successful: “We noticed his attention, so the message is positive. It is always better to make an effort, even a little awkward, than not to make any".

“The budget is the real proof of love”

Michel Goya confirms… but only halfway. If he appreciated Emmanuel Macron's communication efforts towards the army - the rise of the Champs-Elysées in command car the day of his inauguration, the visit to wounded soldiers at the Percy hospital or his outfit this Thursday, therefore, the main thing is in his opinion elsewhere. “Wearing Air Force attire is cool, it's fun, but it's superficial. The important thing is the budget, that's the real proof of love. On this side, there is a real feeling of betrayal in the face of the President's broken promises”. During his presidential campaign, the former Minister of the Economy had assured that the defense budget would be protected. It was not the case. Our military-historian-blogger squeals: “We always attack the army because we have no unions, so no media strike force. And then, the proportion of salaries in our budget is lower than in other ministries. It's easier to cut credits for equipment".

This ex-colonel of the navy troops notes above all that despite his attentions, the Head of State lacked consideration for the army by humiliating his highest-ranking officer, before putting on a layer of it... in a sports broadcast:He humiliated the general in front of the military community (on July 13, when he declares “i am your boss“, editor’s note.) when it was not necessary. What I see is that on the one hand he is attached to symbols, on the other, he does not notice that mentioning the situation of General de Villiers at the Vélo Club is a bit humiliating.“. Between Emmanuel Macron and the army, the love story starts decidedly badly


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