French love affair with Sarkozy is fading
Amid a high-profile romance with Italian supermodel Carla Bruni, the French president is facing tough questions and slipping in public opinion polls.
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As he said Tuesday, "I would prefer not to lie about this ... Should I take two planes?"Skip to next paragraph
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Constraint on reform
Despite a superhuman schedule of foreign and domestic policy matters, Sarkozy may be feeling for the first time some constraints on his ability to reform by fiat.
"After eight months of cure, the Sarkozy prescription isn't working," wrote critic Laurent Joffrin in the daily Liberation this week. "Purchasing power remains as flat as a [French Prime Minister] François Fillon speech. We are now thrown toward philosophical heights ... toward a 'new Renaissance' that an inspired Socialist could have evoked. But concrete results?"
The French president may also feel some constraints on his private life. Sarkozy travels to Saudi Arabia next week and has been asked by Riyadh not to bring Bruni, according to the weekly Journal du Dimanche. Shortly after, Sarkozy goes to India, which has not restricted his entourage, but which has expressed puzzlement over Bruni's status and the protocol arrangements.
Trying his hand at philosophy
Sarkozy has often been criticized for not upholding the French president's special responsibility to outline broad concepts of ideas about civilization and civility. But on Monday, he delved into French philosopher Edgar Morin's notions of the need for less isolation, anonymity, and dehumanization, despite the problems of the brutalities of a modern technologically based state.
"If politics can't express the ideas we have of … man's freedom, of his responsibility, his dignity, then what does it express?" Sarkozy asked.
The 85-year-old Mr. Morin, asked by French reporters, responded what he thought about the press conference, "The president of the republic had 75 percent of sincerity in his words [about my ideas], and the same sincerity of tone in the other 25 percent."
Even French who don't like Sarkozy's policies admire his skill as a communicator. Yet media members are getting tougher on the president than before, as evidenced by several confrontational questions on Tuesday, something not seen so vividly during Sarkozy's campaign and subsequent office holding.
The Monitor asked some 20 top graduate journalism students in Paris were asked on Monday to choose from among four front-page news stories they would want to write about, including the budding romance of Sarkozy and Bruni – a story that has taken up many twists and turns, including descriptions of the pink, heart-shaped diamond ring Sarkozy is rumored to have given Bruni.
None of the students wanted to write on the French president's amorous adventure, and several expressed disdain.
"Most students don't feel like this is serious journalism, and they don't want to talk about something they feel Sarkozy wants to talk about, which seems designed to ignore other problems we have in France," commented Pierrick Leurent, a student at the Center for the Formation of Journalists in Paris.