Attachement du Noeud Présidentiel

By Beacon Staff

It’s easy to believe that hoary old chestnut that all people, all over the world, share much in common. Heck, I even believed that about France, a country I have visited several times. But is there a more profound indicator of difference between our two cultures than the fact that the media still cannot figure out whether French President Nicolas Sarkozy was married last week?

I don’t follow the personal lives of European public officials. I even try to avert my eyes from the tabloids when I’m in line at the supermarket.

But somehow I stumbled across a story about how Sarkozy may or may not have married his girlfriend of two months, model/singer/actress Carla Bruni – reportedly the former lover of such luminaries as Eric Clapton, Kevin Costner, Mick Jagger and Donald Trump.

Rumors of a civil ceremony apparently first piqued the interest of French citizens, but they are reported to have grown just sick of the whole thing by now. Photographs of Sarkozy carrying Bruni’s children at EuroDisney and ignoring his two sons seems to be only straining the patience of the French.

Sarkozy regularly spends the night at her apartment, and when reporters (political paparazzi?) stake out the place, Sarkozy comes downstairs and asks them, “What’s the point?”

Pressed on the issue by reporters in Qatar earlier this week, the French president replied: “Don’t count on me to confirm or deny it,” the London Times reported him saying. “When I have something to say, I’ll say it. So stop poking into my private life.”

Honestly, I think I am drawn to this story because I can’t figure out whether I admire the conduct of Sarkozy and the media on this, or find it … I don’t know, inappropriate?

Sarkozy has had a notoriously rocky relationship with his wife throughout the recent presidential campaign, and I appreciate that the French obviously did not consider a checkered personal life to be a liability in their leader. As was the case with American presidents in an earlier, pre-24-hour media era, it is well known and uncontroversial in France that elected officials often have extra-marital relations. It’s just a difference between our culture and theirs – great.

But I still can’t figure out whether it should be the job of the press to determine whether the democratically elected president just got married or not. It kind of seems like news. In any case, the situation is reaching a head, since other national leaders are having their etiquette tested in inviting Sarkozy to state visits. The Queen of England is apparently vexed as to whether to offer Sarkozy one room at Windsor Castle if he is married, or two rooms, if he is not. So if the French press can’t force old Sarko’s hand on this, at least the Queen Mum can.