M. Sarkozy’s rendezvous with America; relationship perks up
What’s this? Have we forgotten about cheese-eating surrender monkeys and freedom fries? Mais oui. There was a little oo-la-la in Washington last week, and his name was Nicolas Sarkozy, aka the president of France. The Frenchman rumored to actually like America, Elvis Presley and hot dogs came to Washington last week for 48 hours worth of cordial tete-a-tetes with the White House and Congress.
There hasn’t been a more charming French guy on these shores since Pepe Le Pew. Or Maurice Chevalier, anyway.
“He’s so very attractive, so very charismatic. And he really likes the United States and the American people. I am counting on him to fix the relationship between France and the U.S., and I am very confident he will do just that,” said Anais de Viel Castel, associate publisher of Washington Life magazine, which chronicles the feasts and fetes of local socialites.
“Here’s a guy who stood up and walked out of a major CBS interview when he got offended. I think that impressed a lot of Americans,” said Tyler Gray, senior editor of Radar magazine.
Indeed, Mr. Sarkozy, 52, sprang to his feet, flung off his mic and swept off the set last month after Lesley Stahl of CBS’ “60 Minutes” insisted on probing his recent divorce from wife, Cecilia.
“That’s what the world needs right now. More guys to stand up against the press onslaught of their personal life. He’s set a good example,” Mr. Gray observed.
The divorce and the hissy fit only adds to Mr. Sarkozy’s cachet; many are fascinated with his personal travails and looming bachelorhood since his ex-model wife has walked out on him. Their divorce was publicly acknowledged last month.
“Oh, yes, yes, yes. American women will like him. You have to remember, they’re deprived of cute politicians. All the somewhat attractive guys like Barack Obama and John Edwards are already taken. And they’re really, really married. Besides, their spouses are always insinuating themselves into the press as well,” Mr. Gray said.
That lean face, the good hair, soulful blue eyes, his fearlessness. Monsieur Sarkozy himself said publicly last month, “I am a friend of the United States,” and “I want Americans to know they can count on us,” among other kinder, gentler things.
“How I wish I knew Sarkozy when I was chief of protocol. It would make my job a little easier,” sighed Selwa “Lucky” Roosevelt, who was chief of protocol of the United States from 1982 to 1989.
The man in question arrived in Washington Nov. 6 with an entourage that included three-star French chef Guy Savoy and a bevy of attractive young stateswomen. There was a whirl through the Four Seasons Hotel with FrenchAmerican business leaders and D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty, a little earnest medal-awarding at the French ambassador’s residence and a perfectly splendid black-tie dinner at the White House with President Bush and first lady Laura Bush.
The luminaries nibbled fine cheese and said “cheese” for a slavering press corps. But “cheese-eating surrender monkeys” — a “Simpsons” phrase popularized by the New York Post to mock French reluctance to back the Iraq war in 2003 — was long forgotten.
“In the Congress, there is a portrait of George Washington, but also Lafayette. I want to continue in this tradition,” Mr. Sarkozy said, emphasizing the relationship between our first president and the French nobleman who helped lead American forces during the War of Independence.
On Nov. 7, Mr. Sarkozy addressed Congress itself, the first time a French leader has set foot in the Capitol in 11 years. He topped off his visit with a pictureperfect press conference with Mr. Bush at Mount Vernon, as the Potomac River sparkled and the minds of creative reporters searched for historic references. Then Mr. Sarkozy returned to France.
But some of his countrymen are not so keen on their new leader’s sudden new coziness with Yankees and the French press often calls him “Sarko L’Americain.”
“The visit has enormous potential, but it’s too easy to exaggerate that we have already turned the page,” Charles Kupchan, a professor of international relations at Georgetown University told the Christian Science Monitor.
“Sarkozy is more pro-American; he is something of a renegade. He would relish breaking the trend and dispensing with the Gaullist ambition to set France and the European Union as rivals of the U.S. But so far it’s mostly rhetoric,” he added. “It’s happy talk about restoring relations with Washington, but not much else.”
French President Nicolas Sarkozy addressed a joint session of Congress Nov. 7 as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Robert C. Byrd sat behind him.