Monday, April 14, 2008

A Lowbrow in High Office Ruffles France

Curious item. In the US the movie crowd spells glamor; not so in France.
President Nicolas Sarkozy’s fondness for showbiz pals, his marriage to Carla Bruni and the appointment of a culture minister who is intelligent but widely regarded as weak, have combined to produce something of a culture shock.
France is, or sees itself as being, different. Certainly different than the US, on which the elite look down. Maybe more than the elite think of Americans as provincial bumpkins.

Nicolas Sarkozy has drawn criticism for his cultural tastes since he became president of France.

Crude and provincial, they say.

“Sarko l’Américain” is another common insult. The French, though, may soon have to think up a fresh one if (and you can almost hear Mitterrand starting to turn in his grave) the United States elects a president who delivers speeches like the one Senator Barack Obama gave on race while this country has its first modern leader not to have graduated from the country’s upper-crust schools, a head of state who on a recent visit to the Vatican arrived late, with an exceptionally crude French stand-up comic named Jean-Marie Bigard in tow. The coup de grâce: the hyperactive Mr. Sarkozy reportedly text-messaged somebody or other while with the pope.

This next line is really telling:
“Look, we need a president who is cultivated,” he said, as if for a Frenchman this were as indisputable as the superiority of Pétrus. “It goes back to the days of the kings.”

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