Hurray Hurray! Welcome to Sarkoz…ay! (pardon the liberty with spelling)
[quote]WASHINGTON, Sept. 12 — Nicolas Sarkozy is campaigning hard to be the next president of France on the jogging trails of Central Park and in the corridors of the White House. On a four-day trip to the United States, the 51-year-old minister of the interior, France’s leading presidential hopeful on the right, pinned the Legion of Honor on the police commissioner of New York, honored firefighters in Midtown Manhattan for their losses on 9/11 and signed hundreds of copies of his new best-selling book on France’s future. He told Jewish leaders of his love of Israel, American business leaders of his love of free enterprise, and Francophiles of his love of America. He confessed that he loves to read Hemingway and watch movies like “Miami Vice.”
He was received by President Bush at the White House (an exceptional event for a mere minister) and by Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, and Senator Barack Obama, Democrat of Illinois, on Capitol Hill. “My devotion to our relationship with America is well known and has earned me substantial criticism in France,” Mr. Sarkozy declared in a speech before the French-American Foundation in Washington on Tuesday, his last day here. “I’m not a coward. I’m proud of this friendship, and I proclaim it gladly.” Mr. Sarkozy is calculating that his courtship of America, and his affinity with some policies of the United States, may win him votes on the French right. And he used his trip here both to burnish his standing as a statesman and separate himself from what he considers his government’s clumsy diplomacy in crises like those in Iraq and Lebanon.
Mr. Sarkozy is in many ways the most un-French of politicians, a believer in hard work, raw ambition, the man on the street and the American dream. Despite the French Republican ideal that ignores religious and ethnic differences, Mr. Sarkozy speaks often of his Hungarian father and his foreign-sounding name, and has disclosed that one of his grandfathers was Jewish. So for him, the nickname “Sarko the American” is not an insult, but a badge of honor. In his speech on Tuesday, he blamed journalists on both sides of the Atlantic for writing reports often “so far from the truth” about France’s adoration and envy of the United States. The French, he said, “wear American jeans and love American burgers and pizza.
“Nothing makes a French person prouder than seeing a French actor in an American film,” he added. “All French parents dream of sending their child to an American university.” Americans, he said, are “so successful and so misunderstood.” Although Mr. Sarkozy opposes the war in Iraq, he criticized President Jacques Chirac for the way he conducted diplomacy with the United States before the war. In 2003, Mr. Chirac threatened to veto a United Nations Security Council resolution justifying the war, which infuriated the United States. Mr. Sarkozy called that decision the basis for the misunderstanding between France and the United States, adding that it was
[color=red]no way to treat a friend[/color]
. In a closed-door meeting with more than a dozen Jewish leaders on Monday, he said France should not have waited as long as it did to commit troops to Lebanon and went further than Mr. Chirac in criticizing Hezbollah, calling it a “terrorist” organization, according to one participant, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to disclose what took place at the meeting.
Mr. Sarkozy is running as both an insider and an outsider. He is the head of the ruling party, the Union for a Popular Movement, to which Mr. Chirac belongs, but he often calls for a “rupture” with current policies, including those that he believes inhibit job creation and productivity. He did not go to the École Nationale d’Administration, the preparatory grand school for French political life, as did much of the country’s political elite. “I wasn’t destined to have a great role in society,” he once said. “I had to go out and get it.” So it is as an outsider that he seems unconcerned that his appearance with Mr. Bush, who is more unpopular than ever in France these days, will hurt politically. On the contrary, Mr. Bush is the most recent in a string of foreign leaders Mr. Sarkozy has met with in recent weeks. Playing the role of an ad hoc foreign minister, he discussed genocide in Darfur, the nuclear crisis with Iran and peacemaking in Lebanon with the United Nations secretary general, Kofi Annan, on Monday.
Mr. Sarkozy also appears to be wooing voters on the right through his anti-immigration, anticrime, antiterrorism policies to lure them from the extreme right-wing National Front party of Jean-Marie Le Pen. The highlight of the trip was an unannounced meeting with Mr. Bush at the White House on Tuesday during a scheduled meeting Mr. Sarkozy had with Stephen J. Hadley, the national security adviser. Mr. Chirac, who was the first foreign leader to visit Mr. Bush at the White House after the 9/11 attacks, has been waiting for a return invitation ever since. The purpose of Mr. Bush’s appearance was in part to reward Mr. Sarkozy for his America-friendly foreign policy. “Certainly this can be seen as a signal to the current leadership in France,” said one senior American official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly. “Sarkozy has shown he has a different attitude towards the United States.”
The official said the meeting was negotiated by both sides. The White House even allowed a photo of the two men to be released, following a day of negotiation with French officials, the official said.
Frederick Jones, the National Security Council spokesman, said Mr. Bush joined the meeting in Mr. Hadley’s office for about 25 minutes. [/quote]
I note, however, that regrettably Bush remains more unpopular than ever in France but that is what leaders are supposed to do: lead. Sarkozy must explain our policies to the French rather than use them against us in naked attempts to posture and pander for votes. At the end of the day, Chirac failed to lead and engaged in populist policies and they were no guarantee that people would support him. His popularity is in the toilet in spite of selling out. He should have acted with greater integrity.