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In a scene reminiscent of a Benny Hill chase skit, controversial French politician Marine Le Pen made the rounds on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, haranguing the French government, meeting with sheepish Republican lawmakers and being dodged by other Members, all the while being trailed by a throng of Francophone reporters.
Le Pen, the leader of the ultraconservative National Front political party, had hoped to use her Washington visit as a demonstration of her foreign policy credentials, scheduling a meeting with presidential hopeful Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) to discuss the gold standard and other international monetary policies.
But instead of the serious, quasi-state visit she had been hoping for, Le Pen found herself at the center of a trans-
Atlantic media circus.
Although Le Pen had hoped to have a packed schedule of meetings with Democrats and Republicans alike, Members largely kept her at arm's length.
For instance, according to a spokesman for Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), "They approached us ... we were not able to agree to the specific details."
Other Members canceled meetings with Le Pen, including Paul, who abruptly pulled out of his sit-down with Le Pen earlier this week, citing "scheduling" conflicts.
Last month, Paul's office had defended scheduling the meeting, with the Texas Republican's spokeswoman, Rachel Mills, writing in an email, "Paul generally meets with foreign politicians and political leaders who request a meeting, particularly when they share his interest in monetary policy and the destructive nature of central banks."
It is unclear why Paul canceled their meeting this week, as requests for comment on that were not returned.
Despite Paul's snub, Le Pen was undeterred. First, she reportedly met with anti-Sharia law activists to discuss their common efforts to block what they view as a looming threat to Western civilization posed by Islamic religious law.
She then had lunch at the Capitol Hill Club with Republican lobbyists.
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.