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: