François Hollande did so well in his baptism by fire on the international scene that Jean-François Copé was downright apoplectic about it. In a rather unhinged press conference, Copé tried to play down the significance of Hollande's easy rapport with the president of the United States by suggesting that banter in front of the cameras is one thing, hard international bargaining over serious interests is another.
And of course Copé is absolutely right. The atmospherics of summit meetings tell us nothing about the actual state of the world. It's a pity that the UMP ignored this when Sarkozy was president, taking every gesture of politeness as a mark of Sarkozy's mastery of diplomacy and triumphal reassertion of France's influence (remember the "France is back!" rhetoric of 2007?). Poor Jean-François: he doesn't know about sour grapes, I guess. And if his agitated performance is any indication, we have lost Sarkozy only to gain a more annoying copy. Omni-Copé will be harder to take than the omniprésident.
In any case, cold, hard interests remain cold, hard interests, and what if anything transpired at the G8 and NATO meetings will become clear only later. But if the UMP was hoping that the rejection of Hollande that marked the campaign season would continue after the election, it was sadly mistaken. Hollande is now one of "the club"--to borrow Copé's own metaphor--and the rules of the game require that France's interests be filtered through Hollande's preferences, whether Copé likes it or not. Hollande, for his part, eased his acceptance by fellow club members by minimizing his differences with them and refraining from provocation.
The bar was set low, to be sure, but he jumped it easily.