Reading the press this morning, or listening to the radio or watching television, I must admit doubts persist, and questions are raised about the official (presumptive) Democratic candidate ...
Of course, I am not saying here that suddenly the French media sees Obama very negatively, which would be impossible, seeing the Obamania which was reigning here at the beginning of the week, but the comments are less unanimous now than they were a few days ago : some criticisms have started to emerge.
Three main topics are developed :
1) France feels ill-at-ease about the Friday "Sarkozy-Obama show" : I'd better say the "Sarko show", as HE, not Obama, was the real star, for a change...
Sarkozy behaved as if Obama were already president, even if he pretended not to want to interfere in the choice of American voters. Here is an example of what he said :
" Well, ... the Americans will choose their president, you know, not I. Americans will make the choice. And I think you're old enough to have an idea or two of your own, and I did not await the presidential elections or campaign to say that France wanted to work hand-in-glove with the Americans. And I've often been criticized -- a lot, in fact -- I've been criticized a lot for having said that. But obviously, one is interested in a candidate who's looking towards the future rather than the past, and that's something -- a concern that I share"
The last words of the quotation are particularly striking : the reference to the "past" : who can that allude to ? Any idea ?
"Of course, it's not up to the French to choose the next president of the United States of America. Whomsoever that may be, we will work with him happily and gladly. But I am especially happy to be meeting with the senator I met back in 2006 when we talked in such impassioned terms about Darfur, what was happening there. And there were two of us in that office, and there were two of us in my office. (Laughter.) And one of us became president. Well, let the other do likewise. Well, I mean, that's not meddling."
"Not meddling ?" He must have been kidding !
The way Obama was treated by the French president was not ambiguous : it is clear that Nicolas Sarkozy has made up his mind, and that is totally ununsual (we can compare this attitude with that of Gordon Brown, who refused to appear in Downing Street next to Obama, because it would have meant he was endorsing him).
Nicolas Sarkozy was not afraid to endorse the Democratic candidate, whatever McCain and Republicans may think. Is that the same Sarkozy, who exactly one year ago, was invited by the Bush family for a picnic, and insisted on the fact he was one of their best friends ?
Well, it seems that Sarkozy is not a very faithful lover ! He is rather inconstant, isn't he ?
On the radio (France Info), Guillaume Caven explains that a lot of journalists were actually confused : he underlines the contrast between the way Obama was greeted and what happened on the 21st of March, when John McCain met Sarkozy. There were 200 journalists for Obama, only a third for McCain ! (" Ce moment passé ensemble a d’ailleurs donné lieu à certaines confusions, journalistes et Président manquant régulièrement de faire passer Obama pour un chef d’Etat, lorsqu’il n’est encore que candidat.")
At one moment, Obama seemed to be so embarrassed that he felt obliged to reply : "Well, let me, first of all, just remind everybody that I'm not -- I'm not the president. (Laughter.) I am a United States senator. I am a candidate for president".
Thank you for this precision indeed !
Yet, Obama's embarrassment was only fake : he himself constantly behaved as if he had already been elected president (remember his plane, + all the journalists coming to Europe with him ?), and that reveals a lack of respect for American voters.
A little later, in case we were still unsure of his "vote", Sarkozy added :
"So good luck to Barack Obama. If he is chosen, then France will be delighted. And if it is somebody else, then France will be the friend of the United States of America. And likewise when -- for him, when there are elections in France, he won't say, well, it's up to the Americans to choose the French leader. Of course not."
So this time no doubt is possible : "France wil be delighted" : but which France was he speaking about ? I, personally, won't feel delighted !
Anyway, I wonder : why hasn't he offered him the Statue ?
Sarkozy to Obama : "And we'll send over the big version once you become president"
2) The other thing which quite puzzled journalists was how Obama seemed in a hurry to leave. He clearly prefers Berlin ! (but he apparently had some good reasons for doing so), in spite of what he said :
"As far as me standing time in Paris, I don't know anybody who doesn't want to spend more time in Paris. (Laughter.) So it really just had to do with the fact that the way our schedule was structured, I've been gone a very long time. It's unusual for a presidential campaign -- candidate to be out of the country for more than a week. And so I think we've just had to abbreviate these last meetings. But I assure you that I look forward to coming back and spending much -- much time here."
Well, this is not a very convincing apology, and the fact is that nobody believed it ! Everybody understood that Obama did not want to stand too long besides the leader of a nation which challenged the decision of the American president a few years ago, when he decided to launch a war in Iraq (although France finally proved to have made the good choice
3) Thirdly, we have come to realize that all this was not very serious, in spite of everything which was at stake, and we will call the whole thing :"A romantic comedy".
Indeed, the expression "romantic comedy" is used today in the American press to describe the meeting between the two men, and I must admit it is excellent, perfectly suited to the situation.
However, not all American journalists are naïve : some have noticed that Obama will probably lose more than he will win after his visit to Paris, as it was not the best moment of his tour. For example, in the article "French President Sarkozy All But Endorses Obama", http://www.mcclatchydc.com/election2008/story/45611.html,
we read : "Obama, whose charisma normally trumps politicians with whom he shares a stage, looked staid and seemed to be measuring his words as he stood beside the animated Sarkozy, although at some points he couldn't help but grin."
In the British newspaper the Guardian, this impression is shared : Sarkozy looked much more "presidential" than Obama, who was yet supposed to be the star, and which appeared as a rather pale figure on that day, next to the dynamic, self-confident Sarkozy : Here is what Agnes Poirier writes in "A French lesson in presidential showmanship" :"The president is enjoying his power over his captive audience (...) So, as Nicolas Sarkozy would have the world believe, thanks to him, France loves America again, and Barack Obama is buying it. He has to. He hasn't been elected yet ; he's just a senator from Illinois touring the world, having to digest notes from a pack of cards written by a 300-strong team of foreign policy advisers. Indeed, during the Paris press conference, Barack Obama was reading from his notes, as if walking on eggs...".
Finally, Obama must have a lot of regrets when he thinks about his French visit, because it was far less remarkable than his speech in Berlin the day before.
We may quote Maureen Dowd , in the New York Times , who probably made the funniest comment upon this meeting between the two men .
"It could have been a French movie. Passing acquaintances collide in a moment of transcendent passion.They look at each other shyly and touch tenderl during their Paris cinq à sept, exchange some existential thoughts under exquisite chandelies, and -tant pis- go their separate ways. Sarko back to Carla Bruni. Obama, forward to Gordon Brown. And a Man and a Man. All it needed was a lush score and Claude Lelouch. (...) After 200,000 people thronged to see Obama at the Victory Column in Berlin, chritening him "Redeemer" and "Savior", it turned out Sarko was also Obamarized, as the Germans were calling the mesmerizing effect. "You must want a cigarette after that", I teased the candidate after the amorous joint press conference, as he flew from Paris to London for the finale of his grand tour. "I think we could well work together", he said of Sarko, smiling broadly.
He did not get to meet his fan, Carla Bruni. "She wasn't there", he said. "Which I think disappointed all my staff. That was the only thing they were really interested in."
So, that was what went wrong !
What Obama will probably miss most is not to have been able to meet Carla Bruni Sarkozy, who was not at the Elysée, when he arrived :
Now we understand why he promised to come back, at the end of the press conference :
"I'm grateful to the people of France for their hospitality. And I'm looking forward to coming back and being able to spend more time enjoying the wonders of France."
When he said :"the wonders of France" : he probably meant, this particular one :
Finally, that is probably better for him : one never knows...
Michelle might have been jealous !