He’s five months into his term, and French President Emmanuel Macron is wasting little time. Since his meteoric ascent to the Élysée Palace last summer, the 39-year-old leader has already pushed through an ambitious overhaul of the French labor code, honored his campaign pledge to scrap the country’s wealth tax, and replaced France’s two-year-old state of emergency with a permanent counterterrorism law. Among the other things on Macron’s to-do list: Shake up the country’s unemployment insurance and push for eurozone reform.
But the young president faces another urgent challenge: his image. In an unusual break from his policy of keeping the press at arms length, Macron ended his media silence this week to challenge the criticism that he is aloof and out of touch with the French people—a characterization Macron has often faulted the press for, arguing that the media is preoccupied with scrutinizing his communication style rather than the content of his message.
In an interview with the German magazine Der Spiegel published last Friday, Macron insisted: “I am not aloof,” adding, “When I am with French people, I am not aloof because I belong to them. My view is that the French president belongs to the French people, because he emanates from them. What I do is this: I am putting an end to the cronyism between politics and the media. For a president, constantly speaking to journalists, constantly being surrounded by journalists, has nothing to do with closeness to the people.”