Thursday, May 31, 2007

Is Sarkozy banalising the French presidency?

Elegant or gauche? Don't miss the gold chain around Sarkozy's neck! Megalomaniac to the core, I think he is a more suave version of Hugo Chavez

Excellent article in NYT. Some extracts that caught my attention:

To their admirers, the Sarkozys are the French Kennedys: the president is outdoorsy and athletic, the first lady beautiful and designer-dressed, the passel of children smiling and photogenic.

To their detractors, the Sarkozys are more like Italy’s former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and his clan: showy, vulgar, acquisitive, more nouveaux riche than old mon

Gone are the much older and more formal Chiracs, with their discretion, impeccable manners, old-fashioned style and easy slow motion.

In their place is a 52-year-old president, armed with naked ambition, a hyperactive style and close friendships with some of France’s richest men.

“They look like an ordinary French family — divorced, remarried — with all their problems out in the open,” said Marie-Pierre Lannelongue, a senior editor at French Elle. “Before when the president was unfaithful everyone knew about it but no one talked about it. Here is a great drama of love with its ups and downs. Everyone’s talking about the first lady: Were there suicide attempts? Why did she come back? We don’t know exactly but we want to know.”

But showing off one’s money is considered culturally vulgar in France; discretion is respected. And if the Figaro poll is to be believed, 52 percent of the French believe that Mr. Sarkozy is “flashy.”

His first act after his electoral victory was announced was to dine with Cécilia, other family members and friends at Fouquet’s, a touristy Champs-Élyseés restaurant owned by a business group better known for its casinos. His postelection two-day minivacation with her and their son Louis spent in the Mediterranean aboard the 190-foot yacht of a billionaire friend was mercilessly criticized by both the political elite and the man on the street.

“You cannot identify with General de Gaulle and behave like Silvio Berlusconi,” the philosopher Alain Finkielkraut wrote in Le Monde. He added, “For three days, he made us ashamed.”

Certainly, both Sarkozys seem to resist understated, traditional dress and reject stately protocol. The cover of this week’s popular magazine VSD ran a photo taken last summer of Mr. Sarkozy in a dark suit without a tie, his white shirt unbuttoned enough to reveal a gold chain around his neck. Mrs. Sarkozy wore oversize aviator glasses but not enough undergarments to hide the contours of her breasts or her panty line.


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