Obama writes letter to Chirac - blogosphere goes crazy

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    Who's the President of France anyway? Some conservative bloggers are convinced that President Obama doesn't know that Nicolas Sarkozy is the President of France. Who's in this picture? President Jacques Chirac, right, former First Lady Bernadette Chirac, center, and current French President Sarkozy.
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Want to know how quickly rumors get spread on the Internet? Here's a prime example.

The right side of the web is apoplectic this morning claiming that President Obama doesn't know who the French president is.

They point to an article in the French newspaper Le Figaro reporting that President Obama last week wrote a letter to former French President Jacques Chirac.

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"I am certain that we will be able to work together, in the coming four years, in a spirit of peace and friendship to build a safer world," Obama is purported to have written.

Wrong guy

This has electrified the Internet. Why would President Obama initiate correspondence with Mr. Chirac instead of President Nicolas Sarkozy?

One excited blogger writes, "Doesn't Obama ever consult his staff before acting? Sarkozy is the President there! It's like Sarko writing to George Bush and saying he looks forward to working with him. Chirac is the FORMER president."

That's a good heads up. But let's dig a little deeper.

French-speaking pal

Our handy colleague, Laurent Belsie, who writes the New Economy blog here at the Monitor, speaks French.  (We don't hold that against him.)

With his help we found out that another French newspaper, the New Observer, explained that Obama was merely replying to a Chirac letter who was writing him as the head of his foundation -- the Jacques Chirac Foundation for sustainable development and cultural dialogue.

The foundation is promoting access to water and medicines in west Africa, combating deforestation in the Congo Basin, and trying to save dying languages in Polynesia, according to a spokesman who helped set up the foundation.

Teleprompter jokes

Of course it is much more fun to write things like "Maybe President Obama's correspondence office needs a teleprompter too!" But in fact, there doesn't seem to be a controversy here.

Le Figaro did opine in its article that "in using the word 'peace,' Obama was offering an implicit homage to the former French president who had opposed the Iraq war."

But other French news organizations confirmed with Chirac's entourage that they believed the reference was not in regards to the Iraq war but to Chirac's current work as head of the foundation.

Whatever. In any case, there is no evidence that the language has upset President Sarkozy or anyone else in France.

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