Totally Frenched Out

From the blogger formerly known as Samdebretagne

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Passation 2012

I'm currently watching the swearing in of the new French President on TV.  One of the things that has really struck me in this campaign is how little François Hollande's female companion has been brought up.  For those of you who don't know, he started a relationship with Valerie Trierweiler back in 2005. At that time, François Hollande was still with Ségolène Royal, the candidate defeated by Sarkozy in the 2007 elections.  And Ms Trierweiler was also still married to her husband. And yet it was a complete non-issue during the campaign - the other side didn't even think to bring it up as a defense mechanism.

Can you imagine a couple like this ever even having a chance in hell of making to the White House in the US? Hell, Bill Clinton was almost impeached for his dalliance with Monica Lewinsky - yet in this case, both spouses were full-on cheating on their partners and here they are, about to take over as France's head of state and move in to l'Elysée.

I'm not writing this to judge them, more so to comment on the difference in mentalities between my two countries. I find it interesting that Americans tend to feel that one's personal actions are also a reflection of how they will react in their public life. Whereas they are completely separate for the French - a politician can be sleeping around with anything that moves and yet still be considered a perfectly good candidate (example: DSK).

Historically-speaking, what French politicians have done on their own time has always been hush-hush, even though it was quite well known in the journalistic circles that many of them had mistresses (and some even had children with them).  But up until recently, they were never followed by paparazzi and those kinds of subjects were just left alone. 

That tide started to change with Sarkozy however - known as the "Bling bling" president, he was followed anywhere he went in order to find proof he was living the high life.  He and Carla were even photographed on a yacht in their swimsuits, which was quite the shocking revelation as no other president had ever been photographed in such a "private way" during his off hours.

I'm not sure what my feelings are exactly on this subject.  On one hand, I do think that if someone thinks it's okay to cheat on his wife, he might not have the best scruples and that does call into question his ability to make sound decisions for an entire country.  But on the other hand, I'm not sure if I agree with people's private lives becoming such public domain.

So let's put it to a blog poll:

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Blogger Bossi said...

The trouble with a system that insists on presidents being publicly purer than pure is that it seems to make them hypocrites who lead double lives.

May 15, 2012 at 11:31 AM  
Blogger Andromeda said...

I too am fascinated by this difference. However, what's most surprised me is my own feelings about it. I didn't realize how much it bothered me that they're not married until friends would call Trierweiler "La future première dame" and I would quickly reply "No she's NOT!" lol. Weird that politics seems to be one of the few areas where my "pudeur américaine" comes out in full force!

Politicians don't need to be pure, but setting a good example seems like a reasonable expectation, though obviously "good" is very subjective. However, keeping the public and private separate is certainly the example to follow in France!

May 15, 2012 at 12:55 PM  
Blogger Emily in Exile said...

My husband is French and he thinks those pictures were staged to help Sarko boost his image. You know how the French love babies. He said there is no way a photographer could have gotten past the presidential security team.

May 15, 2012 at 1:07 PM  
Blogger chickster said...

Mr. O nearly fell out of his chair when he learned Hollande doesn't believe in marriage (at least for himself). I laughed, but realized that mentality would never go over well for a politician in the states.

May 15, 2012 at 1:10 PM  
Blogger Ksam said...

Emily, the pictures I was referring to were from 2007, right after he got elected and went on vacation on some rich guy's yacht - so it started long before Carla got pregnant.

And I'm curious about your husband's line of thinking - how can the presidential security team stop people from taking pictures from helicopters or from building tops?

May 15, 2012 at 2:07 PM  
Blogger Emily in Exile said...

He was talking about the timing of her announcing her pregnancy and the fact that photographers were able to photograph her in a bikini while she was on the presidential vacation island.

May 15, 2012 at 2:51 PM  
Blogger David Billa said...

"if someone thinks it's okay to cheat on his wife, he might not have the best scruples and that does call into question his ability to make sound decisions for an entire country"

I've heard this argument so many times coming from Americans. I simply don't get it. Does being a cheater makes you a bad teacher, taxi driver, banker, doctor and whatnot?

No, it doesn't. It just makes you a bad person. For better or worse, one can be a bad person and a good professional at the same time. And that includes president.

Also, Sarkozy was not the first French president being photographed wearing a swimsuit, I believe that was Giscard. Chirac was too.
However, Sarkozy was the first to use his personal life as a tool for his image (and he failed miserably at it)

May 15, 2012 at 4:28 PM  
Blogger David Billa said...

Also, Sarkozy was still married to Cecilia when he was elected and went on that infamous yacht trip. That was her on the boat, not Carla.

May 15, 2012 at 4:30 PM  
Blogger Ksam said...

Oh that's right, thanks for the correction David, Cecilia was still in the picture then. Poor woman, everyone always forgets about her!

May 15, 2012 at 4:47 PM  
Blogger Gwan said...

I've always had the impression Cecilia is quite happy to be forgotten!

As a non-American, I find the whole First Lady thing (irrationally, since it's not my country) annoying. Fine if they turn up to public events and smile and do whatever, but I hate it when they start getting treated as though they are politically important. Who you're married to shouldn't make a difference politically! In New Zealand, we have no such view of the spouse of the prime minister, and it's very rare that they would be seen as important public figures in their own right. (And as a side note, we've consequently managed two female PMs without anyone worrying what to call the "First Dude".)

May 15, 2012 at 5:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wait, you forgot the other juicy part of this story: Hollande and Royale were never married even though she is mother to his 4 children, and he's not married to Valerie, either. First time the French First Lady is not also the "wife" - she's a civil partner! We know THAT would not fly in the States right now, either. It's a bit of a mental adjustment for me but honestly I don't see it as a big deal.

May 15, 2012 at 6:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here's another interesting tidbit: What was considered controversial about Hollande leaving Royale for Valerie, was not that he did it, but that the press DISCLOSED it! Just like the French were more shocked at how the American press was allowed to photograph DSK in handcuffs, which is illegal in France, it seems what shocks one side or the other is often very very different. Vive les differences?

May 15, 2012 at 6:27 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

Hmm, wasn't the official reason for the impeachment the fact that he lied about it under oath? Anyway, I do think presidents should try to keep themselves out of sticky situations, as it may lead to blackmail, compromises, etc. (Though they would probably just Deny, Deny, Deny). And yes, I have to admit I do think it is a reflection of character.

May 15, 2012 at 7:23 PM  
Blogger kristen said...

great post!!! so funny, Edna and I were saying the exact same thing while watching it on TV (in a nail salon...)! It would never happen in America... but I'm fine that they do what they want.. as long as it's not illegal...

May 15, 2012 at 9:40 PM  
Blogger meredith said...

I was thinking about this yesterday. The rebel in me likes the fact that he is outside the "norm" for unmarried President that lives with his girlfriend. I think that most private life "stuff" should stay private and doesn't change how someone would perform professionally. Basic journalism and investigative reporting tend to be our modern day checks and balances and I think it's okay for them to blow the whistle on someone like DSK, too...I'm glad he got "exposed". Knowing what we do now about him, I wouldn't vote for him, whereas I was probably going to before. François Holland is not perfect, but it doesn't seem like he ever tried to pretend he was. DSK did try to hide what he was up to. For me this makes the difference between the two.

May 16, 2012 at 9:51 AM  
Blogger Sara Louise said...

Personally, I don't think that people who have affairs exercise the best judgement, but at the same time, you never know what the circumstances are or what arrangements have been made in couples. That said, I don't think that journalists should even ask those type of questions.

May 17, 2012 at 7:04 AM  
Blogger The Paris Chronicles said...

I always think it funny that it is not illicit (or complicit) sex that shocks the French, but anything to do with the open display of wealth. You could have 5 mistresses and dozens of illegitimate children and the French would not blink an eye. But show up in a shiny car, own a huge apartment decorated in nouveau riche style and vacation on your ,that really gets their feathers ruffled!

May 17, 2012 at 9:57 AM  

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