M. Sarkozy’s ren­dezvous with Amer­ica; re­la­tion­ship perks up

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By Jen­nifer Harper

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.”

Katie Falkenberg / The Wash­ing­ton Times

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.

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