Last week, we noted that controversial French National Front leader Marine Le Pen had scheduled a meeting with presidential candidate Ron Paul on Capitol Hill this week to discuss, among other topics, their shared interest in the gold standard. Perhaps spooked by the media coverage of the anti-immigrant leader, Paul's office seems to have canceled the meeting, prompting a comic chase scene through the halls of Congress yesterday. Roll Call's John Stanton reports:
Following lunch and surrounded by dozens of reporters, many of whom had flown to Washington from Paris to cover her visit, Le Pen purposefully trudged across the street to the Cannon House Office Building, intent on forcing a meeting with Paul and blaming the media and political pressure from the French government for the cancellation.
After several fits and starts on the corner as her advisers struggled with which door to enter, Le Pen quickly escaped through a security checkpoint and down a hall.
With Paul on the floor voting, Le Pen hunkered down for 50 minutes in his office, and a tight-faced Paul eventually pushed his way through the reporters, staring straight ahead as he was asked repeatedly why he was meeting with the controversial leader.
Following the meeting — alternately described as "quick" by Miller and "very interesting; we spoke at length" by Le Pen — Le Pen praised Paul, and her own National Front, on their economic policies.
"He has been a visionary on this subject, as we have been visionaries on the economic crisis that today besets Europe," Le Pen said as she made her way to a meeting with Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.), one of the freshman class's most hard-line conservative lawmakers.
Le Pen had also attempted to meet with Rep. Dennis Kucinich, whose office was unsurprisingly "not able to agree to the specific details."
Le Pen's chilly reception from Congress is an interesting contrast to Dutch politician Geert Wilders' reception in D.C. in 2009. Wilders' visit was sponsored by Sen. Jon Kyl and he was invited to screen his controversial film Fitna for Republican lawmakers. If anything, one would think that Le Pen, who has attempted to shift the Front toward the mainstream and toned down the inflammatory rhetoric, would be less toxic than Wilders, who wears his anti-Islamic beliefs on his sleeve.
For more on the upcoming French election, see Eric Pape's profile of Socialist candidate and current frontrunner Francois Hollande.