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 French tuning in to Sarkozy's soap opera life

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Féminin Nombre de messages : 42846
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Date d'inscription : 12/05/2007

MessageSujet: French tuning in to Sarkozy's soap opera life   Lun 18 Fév 2008 - 11:47

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French tuning in to Sarkozy's soap opera life
Actions prompt some to question his mental state

President Nicolas Sarkozy of France married supermodelturned-singer Carla Bruni 80 By John Ward Anderson
Washington Post / February 17, 2008
PARIS - Nine months along, the presidency of Nicolas Sarkozy is drawing increasing comparisons to a bad soap opera.

more stories like thisSarkozy is ruthlessly lampooned on the Internet and portrayed in the media as a monarch and a money-obsessed dilettante, with a documented passion for yachts, country estates, and travel on private jets - with the tabs typically picked up by tycoon friends.

His presidency has been marked by public temper tantrums, a 172 percent pay raise orchestrated by his office, a divorce, and then his marriage four months later to an Italian supermodel-turned-singer whom he'd known for 80 days.

These and other startling acts have more than a few people here speculating about the man's mental state. "It's a conversation everybody's having," said Nicole Bacharan, a political analyst at the Institute of Political Studies in Paris. "The whole country, especially people who voted for him, are turning into therapists."

Sarkozy invites comparison to Tom Cruise - intense, headstrong, athletic, dynamic, charismatic. The president has not started jumping up and down on a couch, but there is a sense among many people in France that he could at any moment.

"I sometimes feel that he's totally crazy," said Lois Nathan, 63, an American English professor who has lived in France for 20 years. "When I watch him talk, I often say to myself that he doesn't have a stable psychology. And I often wonder, what on Earth is he doing?"

Sarkozy won the election with some very sober promises. He would revitalize a stodgy presidency and reinvigorate a morose country. People's hard work would be rewarded with higher pay. He would run a can-do administration, open and modern, that would restore French pride.

Sarkozy's approval ratings have plummeted to about 39 percent, with polls suggesting that his party could take a shellacking in municipal elections next month. Pollsters attribute the collapse to two main factors: no improvement in economic conditions and overexposure to his personal life, elements of which strike some people as nouveau riche and vulgar.

The popular TV news parody "Les Guignols de l'Info," a nightly puppet show, sometimes mocks Sarkozy's affinity for Rolex watches by giving him an armful. He has also been saddled with a disparaging nickname: "Bling-Bling," the hip-hop expression for the gaudy trappings of wealth.

"He is the president of France, and I wish that he was a little more classy," said Felix Noir, 33, a Web developer and communications executive. He faulted Sarkozy for first publicizing his affair with Italian supermodel Carla Bruni with a much-photographed outing to Disneyland Paris in October. "It was pathetic. . . . That was the beginning of the end; the hunter got captured by the game."

A three-month romance followed, including trips to Egypt and Jordan, lavish parties, and exchanges of expensive gifts, all chronicled by both the tabloid and mainstream press. Almost-nude photos of Bruni from her modeling days showed up in the media, with much recounting of her previous liaisons with Mick Jagger, Eric Clapton, and Donald Trump.

She and the president were married in a secret ceremony at the presidential Élysée Palace on Feb. 2.

If the French think they've seen everything, they can think again. Three books are just hitting the shelves that deconstruct the Sarkozy-Bruni love affair in glorious detail. Such as Bruni supposedly telling a friend, "I want a man with nuclear power." Such as the former model reportedly inviting Sarkozy up to her apartment for a cup of coffee when he drove her home after their first dinner together, and Sarkozy replying, "Never on a first date."

Tuesday night, L'Express magazine posted excerpts from Bruni's first interview after her marriage on its website, in which she put the relationship on further display. "Between Nicolas and me, it wasn't quick, it was immediate," she declared.

While many French seem captivated by the spectacle of a rock star president at the same time they are repulsed by it, people in other European countries sometimes find the show endearing.

"Sarkozy is behaving like a teenage boy who just got his first girlfriend. It's weird, but there's something flamboyantly French about it," television producer Alan Eyres, 35, said while sitting at a central London coffee shop.

"He's had everything out in the open, and it's hard to have a go at him because of that," Eyres said.

"He's so wrapped up in it he wants to share it, and he's entirely unembarrassed by it," he said.

© Copyright 2008 Globe Newspaper Company.
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