French Media Turn Up Their Nose As U.S. Embraces Sarkozy
"I have come to win the hearts of the American people, to win them enduringly..." Nicolas Sarkozy's two-day official visit to the United States is covered lightly, uniformly, superficially in the French media. The winning hearts headline is repeated in the press, on the radio, on TV, most often as a counterpoint to a snide remark suggesting he can't win the hearts of the French.
And yet the latest polls report that if Sarkozy were running for office today he would get a hefty 58% of the vote.
The midday newscast on state-owned France 2 began with irate fishermen; union leaders have urged them to end their strike after obtaining everything they asked for, but the rank & file threw another load of debris on the flaming barricades just to show they really exist. Next: luscious plans for next week's transportation strike. October's one-day strike lasted 5 days, this one is open-ended. Followed by: unrest in the nation's colleges. Strong arm techniques. Blocked entries. Rowdy meetings. Young people in keffieh. Their scribbled banners clearly announce ¬´ We are at war with the Sarkozy government," but the newscaster says they are protesting against the proposed reform of the universities. And the latest news from Chad: French lawyers visiting their Arche de Zo√© clients escape lynching from local folks enraged because Sarkozy said he'd come back to retrieve the suspected kidnappers.
After singing the blues and blaming all that 'trubbul' on Sarkozy, the newscaster drops in on the black-tie dinner in Washington D.C. Sarkozy and Bush toast each other's nations, Sarkozy expresses gratitude to Omaha Beach veterans, including an Indian chief with French ancestry who says it is the greatest moment in his life, and a veteran who holds back tears as Sarkozy hugs him sincerely. The French president reassures members of the French American Business Club: "Don't worry, there will be strikes, there will be demonstrations, but I won't give in. Not because I'm stubborn, but because it's best for my country."
On (state-owned all-news radio) France-Info, two items are judiciously paired: Ma√Ætre Gilbert Collard, one of the Arche de Zo√© lawyers, complains that the president's "narcissistic clumsiness" has made it more difficult for him to defend his clients, followed by: Sarkozy will address Congress later today. "A great honor... we are told... repeatedly... by the president's office."
A rather thorough search turned up no special in-depth reporting on the visit. The print media covered it with more or less vinegar, depending ...
Natalie Nougayr√®de and Philippe Ridet reporting in le Monde pick up the winning hearts citation, mention possible subjects of discord-global warming and the weak dollar-and chide the president's spokesperson for telling French reporters that the visit was a consecration of France's reunion with the U.S., "neglecting to mention that the rapprochement was already accomplished in the last three years of Jacques Chirac's government, notably on [the question of] Lebanon." Say what?
Comments at the bottom of the story were primarily hostile to Sarkozy - 9 hostile, three favorable. Here are some choice samples:
Danielle s.: "Image of heads of state or 'country pumpkins'? Halloween is a recent memory... You don't need a dictionary to understand the expression! And is it 'trick or treat' or trick & treat?"
Jean M.: "I'm not so sure that the alignment of our man Sarko with a Bush administration that's declining in the USA and on the international scene is the best policy to prepare for the next 5 years. What will he say to Hillary if she's elected president a year from now? Does Sarkozy have such an urgent need to be on the front page that he can't wait a year before laying he foundation of a new Franco-American cooperation?"
alouette: "to be the poodle of an inconsequential, incompetent worn out leader, who is responsible for the deaths of thousands of young American soldiers and tens of thousands of innocent victims in Iraq and elsewhere, what a nice program... aimed above all at showing off our hyper-president. Denying J. Chirac his courageous attitude about the war in Iraq is unspeakable and disgraceful. De Gaulle must be turning over in his grave, poor Charles!"
A low-key Figaro article on the visit elicited 5 favorable, 6 hostile and 2 neutral comments.
One reader gives credit "to those courageous fighters, too many of whom fell on the field of honor, who allow us to live happily today. They protected us from Nazism, Communism, and continue to fight against Terrorism."
But another reader gave the typical spit-in-the-eye: "Nicolas Sarkozy doesn't have a clue about subtlety and finesse. A year or two from now the whole world will be against us with such an arrogant, pretentious, moralizing president who has the nerve to say everything and the contrary."
Most of the critical comments accuse Sarkozy of trotting behind Bush and dragging France into war with Iran.
Lib√©ration readers trounced president Sarkozy with bitter sarcasm, disdain, contempt, and low blows (his small stature, his divorce)-25 hostile, 2 favorable comments.
Madon: ¬´ Bonjour, does he realize what he is doing. The image he gives of himself and France ? Is a 360¬∞ turnaround reasonable? Or is it just to satisfy his personal ego? It's shocking: just when Blair, who played exactly the role that NS is playing today, gets a slap in the face in the UK for serving as vassal and marionette of the most dangerous President America has ever had, how shameful. I feel humiliated."
Franck: Consternation...To see those conservatives Sarkozy and Bush making a toast and to hear Sarkozy's speech praising the common struggle of America and France to combat poverty in the world, it makes me want to vomit. Those two--Sarkozy said it right-- "belong to the same family." And that family is the bourgeoisie. The bourgeoisie that asks us to work more and earn less, that asks the sick to pay for their medical care (while the pharmaceutical labs rake in profits), asks us to accept high gas prices (while shareholders of oil companies drown in money) that accuses immigrants and the jobless of being freeloaders. On the occasion of the anniversary of the Russian revolution it is time to meditate on the popular masses taking over and sending those who govern us to labor in the fields."
Stones: "Another mistake. The Democrats will probably get elected and they'll remember that Sarko licked Bush's boots. He should have waited for the results of the election before running over there--without a wife--to bow and scrape ..."
Sarkozy Sweet & Sour Part 2
November 8 2007
Prime time news gave the spit-in-his-eye treatment to President Sarkozy's address to Congress-a few snatches of his speech with applause and standing ovation, revised by an anchorman who reminds viewers that George W. Bush is an unpopular has-been and someone else-certainly a Democrat-will be in the White House next year. Nevertheless, the privately-owned TV channel TF1 presented an exclusive interview of President Bush by Patrick Poivre d'Arvor. The president was relaxed, alert, personable, coherent and, yes, eloquent. He was by far the more sophisticated of the two. Poivre d'Arvor asked questions flavored with French vinegar, and Bush replied with good humored intelligence. He defended his choices, including of course the liberation of Iraq, while understanding that "people don't like force...that's normal." He praised Sarkozy in terms that contrast sharply with French anti-Sarkozy sarcasm: "He's intelligent, has a lot of energy, he's a lot of fun to be around...and he's serious." Poivre d'Arvor opined--with downcast eyes, nose, and mouth--that the United States had lost its reputation as a land of freedom and is seen today as an oppressive nation. Bush laughed heartily. "That's absurd! ¬ª Defending his record-liberating 25 million Iraqis and perhaps creating a Palestinian state-he reminded Poivre d'Arvor that the judgment of history will fall when he is no longer of this world. In the meantime, he doesn't let himself be swayed by polls, he does what he thinks is right. And, he concluded, the Republican candidate is going to win in 2008, because we are tough on terrorism and advocate tax reductions.
Interviewed on France-Info, former Socialist Foreign Affairs minister Hubert V√©drine was thrown the 64-thousand euro question: Wouldn't it have been better if Sarkozy had waited until next year to warm up relations with the U.S.? V√©drine replied that it is important to maintain close contact with the American president, "even though he is discredited." Sarkozy, he said, is following the course set by Chirac three years ago, there is no rupture whatsoever. But the Americans think there is a change, because of Sarkozy's style and strategy. Implying that Sarkozy was flattering Americans the better to fool them, V√©drine said the crucial question is how much influence will he have on the American president.
The print media covered Sarkozy's address to Congress with dutiful accounts of applause and standing ovations. Le Figaro highlighted declarations of a faithful ally-- "Together we will fight to defend freedom and democracy, together we will fight terrorism"; expectations of a rightfully demanding friend-America should stand for ethical capitalism and lead the fight against global warming; and a resounding declaration of independence: "I want to be your friend, your ally, your partner, but I want to be a free, independent, upstanding friend, ally, and partner."
Lib√©ration ironizes on "Sarko in love [in English in the text] addressing the (Democratic majority) U.S. Congress. He displayed his talent for American show business: feelings, emotion, glorification of the values of freedom... Because he's a good actor it won him 10 standing ovations, 25 interruptions for applause, and doped his hard-wired ego." Lib√© deplores Sarkozy's follow-the-leader betrayal of de Gaulle's lesson that France should always stand out as an exception.
Natalie Nougayr√®de writes in Le Monde that Sarkozy reassured the American administration with a commitment to France's continued presence in Afghanistan because "the future of our values and those of the Atlantic Alliance is at stake...Failure in Afghanistan is not an option. Terrorism will not prevail because democracies are not weak, we are not afraid of that barbarian threat. America can count on France." President Bush saluted his "... partner for peace, a partner who will take strong stands to achieve peace," adding that the French president "had impressed many people."
A hilarious mistake in translation appears in an accompanying Monde review of English-language media. "Cheese-eating surrender [l√¢che] monkeys" is translated as "cheese-eating monkey releasers [l√¢cheurs]."
Sweet & sour: everything about president Sarkozy's visit to the United States that could be sweet-his personal popularity, a giant boost to the prestige of France, the benefits of good relations with a major world power-was turned sour in the French media. Does this reflect the feelings of the French population? Probably not, but who can tell. And who can reason with analysts who think the French president should wait a year before warming up to the U.S., implying of course that it will be governed by a Democrat who will be gung-ho on global warming and pooh-pooh on war in Iraq or anywhere else tyrants are blooming. The world can explode from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe in the meantime but your smart aleck commentator, ensconced in his Franco-French bubble, won't even notice!
P.S. For the flash of a second on TF1 news last night President Sarkozy was shown in front of a backdrop stamped with the logo of the American Jewish Committee. No comment, no explanation. We discover from other sources that the French President was honored with the Light unto the Nations award at an American Jewish Committee breakfast in the presence of 100 appreciative guests. Still other sources reveal that during his U.S. visit President Sarkozy was Petitioned on al-Dura (JTA). How about that! The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations politely requested that Sarkozy instruct France 2 officials to release the 27-minute outtakes of the al-Dura broadcast.
Which leads us to our upcoming coverage of the screening of those outtakes in a French Appelate court, scheduled for November 14th. PJ Media will be posting an al Dura primer, followed a few days later by an account of what promises to be a memorable judicial-media event. It should be noted that the France 3 documentary "Juif en France [Jewish in France]," in the section devoted to contemporary anti-Semitism, skipped over the September 30 al Dura incident and let the "Intifada" begin at Netzarim Junction in October. What one might call a smokescreen expos√©.