Revealing Moment on French Election Night

PARIS — Perhaps the most revealing moment on election night in France was when Nicolas Sarkozy spoke in his victory speech of the friendship binding France and the United States.sarkozyspeech.jpg The moment was not revealing on account of what Nicolas Sarkozy actually said, which — like his comments on Europe, incidentally — reflected a predictably studied balance between expressions of fidelity and criticism. This is what Nicolas Sarkozy said:

I want to make an appeal to our American friends: to say to them that they can count on our friendship, which has been reinforced by the historical tragedies that we have confronted together. I want to say to them that France will always be at their side when they need her help. But I also want to say to them that friendship is accepting the friends can think differently about things and that a great nation like the United States has the obligation not to obstruct the struggle against global warming, but, on the contrary, should take the lead in this combat, since what is at stake is the fate of all humanity.

But what was revealing was the spontaneous applause and cheering that broke out among the crowd when he uttered the words “to say to them that they can count on our friendship”: “pour leur dire qu’ils peuvent compter sur notre amitié.” You can hear and see it here. The passage on Franco-American relations is just over half way through the tape and a cursor control at the bottom of the media player allows you to skip forward. Even supposing such a pledge of friendship to the United States might — with all the “appropriate” qualifications — be found, for instance, in a speech by Jacques Chirac, it would certainly not receive such an enthusiastic response from his partisans — to say nothing of the partisans of Mme. Royal. This already represents an important difference between the old regime and the incoming new one.

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