The French Rudy

Whom do you think the New York Times news editors and reporters wanted to win the French election?

Here’s the headline and opening paragraphs of their news (as opposed to editorial) report:

Sarkozy Wins the Chance to Prove His Critics Wrong

PARIS, May 6 — Arrogant, brutal, an authoritarian demagogue, a “perfect Iago”: the president-elect of France has been called a lot of unpleasant things in recent months and now has five years to prove his critics wrong.

But what is certain is that Nicolas Sarkozy, who won Sunday’s runoff election, is one of the most polarizing figures to move into Élysée Palace in the postwar era. He is a whirling dervish of ideas who inspires hope and fear. Even many members of his own party, the Union for a Popular Movement, are holding their breath in anticipation of what his presidency may bring. “Other politicians don’t want to take risks, but he will take any risk,” said Brice Hortefeux, one of Mr. Sarkozy’s closest friends and political allies.

Mr. Sarkozy is also a bit of an outsider, the first son of an immigrant to rise to the French presidency in a country struggling to integrate second-generation immigrants, the grandson of a Sephardic Jew who converted to Roman Catholicism in a country still riddled with anti-Semitism and a graduate of France’s creaky state university system in a country long governed by technocrats trained at a handful of small, elite “great schools.”

He has always been nakedly ambitious, pragmatic, calculating and not beyond betrayal to reach his goals.

He is full of nervous energy, often rocking on his toes when not at the center of attention — a habit that sometimes makes him look taller than he is in photographs but otherwise draws attention to his small stature.

The New York Sun describes what Sarkozy’s election means:

Well, what do you know. The French hold an election. It comes at a generational turning point in the history of the Fifth Republic. A war is raging in Iraq and Afghanistan and the Sudan and lapping the tonier shores of the Seine. A doddering old Gaullist is on his way out. A young and beautiful socialist is offered to les peuple. The French greet this situation with the highest turnout of voters in memory. Practically everyone goes to the polls. And whom do the French elect? Why, none other than George W. Bush himself.

That is an exaggeration, sans doute. But Nicholas Sarkozy’s election is part of a pattern that puts an end to the “Old Europe” on which Secretary Rumsfeld once remarked, the Europe in which President Chirac sought an entente with Chancellor Schroeder to counterbalance Prime Minister Blair’s Atlanticist ties. Mr. Sarkozy will join the new German chancellor, Angela Merkel, and Gordon Brown, who is poised to succeed Mr. Blair, as European leaders committed to a strong relationship with America. How are all those Democratic Party pinky-in-the-air U.N. admirers who wailed about Mr. Bush’s alienating of Europe going to explain this turn of events? No doubt a victory by Ségolène Royal would have elicited an outpouring of talk about how Europe had just given a rebuke to the policies of the Bush administration. Mr. Sarkozy represents a “rupture,” to use his own term, with Gaullism as it had come to be practiced by Mr. Chirac. The president-elect’s default position on international affairs is not only not anti-American, but one could even call it pro-American. His views on Israel and the Arab world hearken back to the socialists of the Fourth Republic in the 1950s, who understood threats to France as emanating chiefly from the Arab world and viewed Israel as an ally.

All this, moreover, was put to the French voters in no uncertain terms by an increasingly frantic Ms. Royal. In an interview with the daily Le Parisien published Friday, Ms. Royal accused Mr. Sarkozy of holding to “the same neo-conservative ideology” as Mr. Bush and even of “mimic[ing] the American president’s technique of compassionate conservatism.” She had already sought to distinguish herself from Mr. Sarkozy by asserting, “My diplomatic position will not consist of going and kneeling down in front of George Bush,” a reference to Mr. Sarkozy’s high profile visit, in September, to Washington and New York.

During that visit, Mr. Sarkozy not only met with Mr. Bush, but asked for a private meeting with American Jewish leaders that was widely reported in the French press. This flew in the face of the tradition of widespread demonization of the “American Jewish lobby” among French political elites. So did Mr. Sarkozy’s active and successful courtship of French Jewish support, leading to one of the big, unwritten stories of this election. It is the first time a French president would have to say that, in part, he owes his victory to an organized effort on his behalf within the Jewish community.

As the Sun editorial asserts, “How are all those Democratic Party pinky-in-the-air U.N. admirers who wailed about Mr. Bush’s alienating of Europe going to explain this turn of events?” As usual, the New York Times will provide the left with their “talking points” in tomorrow’s editorial.

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