President Joe Biden walked arm and backslapping arm with French President Emmanuel Macron along the beach in Carbis Bay, England, during the G-7 summit in an extended trans-Atlantic, intergenerational display of comity.
he two were not old pals catching up after more than a year of pandemic isolation, but they nonetheless were making up for lost time.
Instead of America standing alone, here it was shoulder to well-tailored shoulder in determined camaraderie.
When the two allies sat to offer brief remarks on how they were getting along, Mr Biden occasionally chuckled. He joked. He toyed with the aviator sunglasses he held in his hands. Was America back?
The president deflected the question, suggesting that it be put to his French counterpart instead. Is America back? “Definitely,” said Macron.
For his meeting with President Vladimir Putin, his administration made it plain that there would be no side-by-side news conference.
No mutual answering of questions. During their conversation, there will be no meal. No bread will be broken, but presumably there will, at least, be water.
But after an administration whose public stance was defined by anger and chest-thumping – and the actual shoving of other world leaders – Mr Biden’s every “hello” is a course correction for the historical record.
He and Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg engaged in a shoulder-clasping tête-à-tête in Brussels while visiting the memorial to the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
The president arrived in Geneva and returned the Swiss gesture of placing one’s hand over one’s heart in a warm and fuzzy welcome. And as some countries begin to see signs of a dissipating pandemic, the diplomatic handshake – so maligned, so germy and yet so deeply ingrained – has made a comeback, but without the palpable animosity of the Trump years.
The Biden picture book from his trip abroad has been a paean to friendship. He met with Queen Elizabeth II and couldn’t help but publicly gush about the encounter. “I don’t think she’d be insulted, but she reminded me of my mother, the look of her and just the generosity,” he said.
He called her gracious and offered her his elbow as they stepped down from their formal perch in front of the cameras. He may be 78, but she’s 95 . And she looked tempted to accept his aid but sallied forth on her own.
First lady Jill Biden made the administration’s message explicit with a jacket on which the word “love” was outlined in crystals on the back. “We’re bringing love from America,” she told reporters in Cornwall during the G-7 meeting.
“This is a global conference and we are trying to bring unity across the globe and I think it’s needed right now, that people feel a sense of unity from all the countries and feel a sense hope after this year of the pandemic.
”But mostly it was a striking jacket because its message contrasted sharply with the acerbic one delivered by former first lady Melania Trump not so long ago: “I Really Don’t Care. Do You?”
The words were graffitied on the back of an olive drab coat, bearing the crude lettering stressing the raw sentiment. Mr Biden wore his suits well, which is no small thing. That, too, was a message of a sort. His shoulder lines were precise and his trousers broke just slightly over his shoes.
His tie was properly knotted and when he was standing, his jacket was neatly buttoned.
He dressed with classic care, which is to say he styled himself with a traditionalist’s respect for both those he was meeting and the people he was representing.
The visuals don’t tell the full story of policies and negotiations. But they do tell us something about the intent, and the tone – about the way in which one wants to be seen. Mr Biden’s walk across the international stage has been both considered and considerate.
He wrapped his allies in an embrace. And he promised not to give bread and comfort to his adversaries. (© Washington Post 2021)