Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Sarko Kisses Hand, Bush Speaks French

As you can see from the picture, la rupture has not affected one ritual of Franco-American relations: the presidential kiss of the First Lady's hand. Someone will have to explain the protocol. As I recall, Sarko kisses Angela Merkel on the cheek but doesn't kiss her hand. Bush, in any case, doesn't look any more pleased than when Chirac kissed Laura's hand, though France is now our "staunchest ally," according to the briefing Nick Burns gave yesterday to L'Express--in French, for a while, until he ran out of clichés and switched to English, the language in which his unctuous mastery is more fully on display. Bush, too, spoke French, long enough to say Bienvenue à la Maison Blanche.

Meanwhile, Cécilia is also doing her part for Franco-American relations. The New York Post ran a photo of her emerging from a Manhattan restaurant named Orsay. Note, however, that the quai d'Orsay was conspicuously absent from the higher echelons of Sarko's entourage, unless you count Rama Yade, whose extraordinary beauty seems to bump her up a few protocol notches above the place her status as a junior minister would otherwise entitle her to. She, along with Christine Lagarde and Rachida Dati, accompanied Sarko to a state dinner, demonstrating to admiring Americans that the French have learned to manage "diversity" as glibly as their American hosts. Sarko also brought a chef with him, and the director of the Louvre. All of this connotes a "return to normalcy" in Franco-American relations: hand-kissing, elegant women, haute cuisine, haute couture, and high art--these are the things that represent "the good France," "our oldest ally," in the American psyche, and as long as the French content themselves with the finer things of life and don't meddle in the serious business of war and finance, we can get along just fine.

Sarko seems willing to play along. He is even finding time in his brief 26 hours in the US to meet with what The Times delicately describes as "American Jewish leaders"--and no doubt his advisor Jean-David Levitte has told him how heated things were with that group just a few short years ago. All is forgiven if not forgotten, and The Times even finds space to mention [I'm correcting an error in my original post here] that Sarkozy's mother is partly Jewish (for la petite histoire; la grande will remember only that "France is back").

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Excellent commentary. You should be writing the New York Times editorials, not Roger Cohen.

Unknown said...

Don't get me started. Roger Cohen's column yesterday was a travesty. I don't understand why The Times squanders the valuable real estate of its op-ed page on such bumbling commentary.

gregory brown said...

His father is Jewish? I thought he was a Magyar noble?

Unknown said...

Gregory,
You're right--it's his mother who is partly Jewish. The Times had it right, and I garbled it. I'll correct in the main post.

gregory brown said...

One other question (by the way thanks for these links!) -- am I right that Burns actually makes a pretty funny faux-pas by describing Sarkozy as a "politicien," which I've always understood to be a term closer to "hack" than "politician" (which is, in any event, a dirty word in American English -- especially in the discourse of the Bush White House.)

Unknown said...

I'm not sure that the Bush team would recognize a distinction between la politique and la politique politicienne. To them, it's all one and the same and ennobled to the level of LE politique by the righteousness of their conviction.