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A Frenchman's Firm Handshake May Have Doomed the Paris Deal

Trump reportedly grew irked after Emmanuel Macron met his shake with an iron grip.

by River Donaghey
Jun 2 2017, 5:57pm

Photo via MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images

Ah, the handshake. To some, a routine gesture of greeting and goodwill. To Trump, an opportunity to lay his signature 48 Laws of Power–style dominance grip onto unsuspecting friends, victims, and visiting dignitaries. It also could have been a motivating factor in Trump's decision to pull the US out of the Paris climate pact. OK, probably not. But hear this out.

After first bestowing the now-infamous gesture on then SCOTUS nominee Neil Gorsuch—yanking his elbow backward mid-shake and almost pulling the judge off his feet—Trump's shake has had some cringeworthy results. It landed on Japanese prime minister Shinzō Abe for a full 19 seconds, left a mark on the hand of Vietnam's prime minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc, and was met with a firm shoulder grip by Canada's Justin Trudeau.

France's new president, Emmanuel Macron, was the latest politician to receive the greeting, but apparently he was ready. According to the Washington Post, Macron told a French journal that he deliberately tried to out-power Trump's handshake when the pair first met in Belgium. "My handshake was not innocent," he said, calling it "a moment of truth."

White House aides told the Post that after hearing about Macron's comments, Trump got all grumbly and bothered. And, a few days later, Trump delivered a zinger during his Thursday announcement about leaving the Paris climate change agreement that could read like a shot back at Macron:

"I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris."

Of course, Trump has always been vocal about his doubts on climate change, so his choice to back out of the landmark agreement isn't that surprising. He started talking about "canceling" the pact on the campaign trail, and has already started rolling back some of Obama's environmental regulations. He is a man of inscrutable verbiage, and even more inscrutable decision-making, so who knows how much of the handshake stuff actually affected his choice.

But, like, whoa, could Trump have solidified his decision to drop the Paris climate pact because he had beef with Paris? It makes about as much sense as anything else these days.

Ultimately, all we do know for sure is that if Macron really wanted to beat Trump at his own handshake game, he should have studied up on jiu-jitsu.