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Donald Trump has gone too far for French far-right leader Marine Le Pen

Sylvain Lefevre/Getty Images

Donald Trump has been frequently compared (including by me) to "far-right" populist movements in Europe. Indeed, scholarly experts on fascism say that this — rather than fascism — is the correct comparison to make about Trump.

But as David Kirkpatrick writes in the New York Times, Marine Le Pen, the leader of France's very successful populist right party Front National, actually thinks Trump has gone too far:

Mr. Trump on Monday evoked comparisons to Ms. Le Pen and her European counterparts with his call to close American borders to all Muslims "until our country’s representatives can figure out what the hell is going on."

Ms. Le Pen said that was too much for her, perhaps in part because she feared jeopardizing the progress she had made in shedding her party’s previous image as racist and anti-Semitic.

"Seriously, have you ever heard me say something like that?" she asked on Thursday when questioned about Mr. Trump’s comments during a television interview. "I defend all the French people in France, regardless of their origin, regardless of their religion."

You are seeing here the basic difference between a legitimate professional politician who happens to run an anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim party, and a reality television star. Proposing formal discrimination on religious grounds just doesn't fly under the French constitution any more than it does under the American Constitution. The way you're supposed to play the game is with formally neutral policy initiatives — something like a ban on Syrian refugees or on wearing religious attire in school — that happen to target Muslim populations. Trump's more straightforward bombast is getting him headlines, but it's making trouble for fundamentally like-minded people elsewhere.