Thursday, January 10, 2008

Presidential Protocol

An older French lady asked me yesterday whether I was for Obama and Clinton. I paused for a bit thinking how many Americans would have thought to ask her last spring whether she was for Nicholas Sarkozy or Segolene Royal. The French media is covering the U.S. presidential primaries extensively; the French tabloids are much consumed with the romantic fortunes of their own president. In case you haven't been following this, let me back up by explaining that President Sarkozy announced his divorce from his second wife back in October (perfectly timed for the day of the first transit strike) and has lately been seen out and about with former fashion model Carla Bruni, even taking her on vacation to Egypt where they (gasp!) shared a hotel room. Media speculation about the marriage date is at a fever pitch with conflicting statements from Bruni's mother and the president himself. (Bruni, for her part, was once quoted as saying "monogamy bores me desperately." So go figure.) You would think that this wouldn't bother the French; Mitterand apparently had a "second family" who travelled with him at state expense. But Sarko's confidence ratings dropped 7 percent in December. Turns out that he crossed the bright line between having an affair and flaunting it. For damage control, he's proclaiming that he just wants to be honest with the public. So will they tie the knot? Will his ratings rebound? Stay tuned.

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