HAPPIER DAYS: OBAMA AND SARKOZY IN PARIS, JULY, 2008.

Now that President Obama’s first year in office is over, French are asking what happened to early hopes for a renewed Franco-American partnership. According to Le Figaro’s Thomas Vampouille, they were frittered away by “a series of small humiliations” – a kind of petty tit-for-tat between the two presidents.

For Le Figaro, Thomas Vampouille writes in part:

A honeymoon had been announced. A year ago, Nicolas Sarkozy didn’t hide his satisfaction at seeing Barack Obama become his American counterpart. … Alas, after Barack Obama arrived at the White House in January 2009, he didn’t keep all of his promises to the French, as they quickly collided with the the freshly-elected leader’s distance. Their first telephone contact didn’t occur as quickly as first anticipated and, above all, despite his insistence, Nicolas Sarkozy didn’t have the honor of being the first chief of state to be received by President Obama, who preferred Gordon Brown. … Commentaries highlighted a growing contrast between the two men, the small and the large, the nervous and the calm, the spontaneous and the reflective. In a Hollywoodish metaphor, Newsweek would compare Nicolas Sarkozy to the “diminutive tough-guy, actor Joe Pesci -all twitches and attitude – playing opposite Denzel Washington – all dignity and reserve.”

But beyond issues of ego, several subjects undermine relations between the two presidents. The economic crisis initially revealed profound differences. The French president, who sought to be at the forefront of combating the crisis, hasn’t spared the United States where, he has repeated, the crisis began. To remedy it, he proposed an overhaul of the global financial system and wanted to legislate it. Barack Obama wouldn’t hear of this, preferring that Europe concentrate on a stimulus. A number of other international issues also increased the friction.

After a year spent trying to attract the attention of his American counterpart who looked elsewhere, the French president seems to have resigned himself. To hell with his dream of a shock duo at the forefront of the world: he who was spurned is discovering the pleasures of multilateralism.

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WILLIAM KERN (Worldmeets.US)
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