THE BLOG
01/18/2008 01:24 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Are Paris Lights Dimming?

Paris lights are dimming for many French citizens griping about media coverage of their president's love life, reports of his third marriage, their leader's "scandalous" in-your-face public behavior and a cost of living galloping well beyond their means.

As if that weren't enough, their most famous landmark's lights are being shut off a few hours into the evening in what has always been referred to as "the city of lights," perhaps a result of mounting fuel and power generating costs.

Adding potential injury to this already painful scenario have been media reports of interceptions by French security services of information that terrorist organizations planned to blow up the Eiffel Tower.

A scenario the French find hard to digest as the price of the traditional baguette has also been raised along with the very basics of life here.

"It's a disgrace what he's doing," said a female cab driver of Nicolas Sarkozy's recent official-cum-sightseeing trips to Egypt and Jordan with his latest flare, model-turned-singer/actress Carla Bruni.

Quite shocking to TV viewers and newspaper readers was seeing the president carrying his paramour's son from her previous marriage on his shoulders in the ancient ruins of Petra in Jordan. Tabloid Libération headlined with "The Portable Kid."

None of Sarkozy's children have been spotted since he divorced his second wife Cécilia in 2007.

The taxi driver complained that Sarkozy had authorized a hefty pay increase for himself, was taking advantage of taxpayers' money, sought the limelight, flaunted all behavior codes for public officials and was a warmonger itching to pick a fight with Iran, like newfound friend George W. Bush.

Worst of all, the media were not holding him to account since they risked being excommunicated given his track record of cracking a presidential whip at detractors, she added.

That may be an exaggeration.

Opposition media in France do not hesitate to take repeated swipes at Sarkozy, much like Britain's or the United States' journalists do their leaders. Even more sober media are aghast.

The satirical and notorious tabloid Le Canard Enchainé, not known to pull any punches, featured a front-page caricature of Sarkozy advising compatriots to overcome their financial woes by following his example of befriending rich people.

The jet-setting president has accepted plane and yacht rides from some of his rich buddies in the French corporate world, including the media.

And in what seems like yet another act of conflict of interest, he recently announced he'd eliminate advertising on France's public television channels already suffering from plummeting advertising revenues.

The savings would, conveniently, end up in private media companies owned by some of Sarkozy's friends.

"If in a year or two we realize there isn't enough public money to finance public TV, and that it's necessary to privatize one of the channels, it would be disgraceful," Dominique Wolton, director of the Institute of Science and Communications, told Le Journal du Dimanche.

The straight-laced daily Le Monde took a dim view of the president's latest news conference attended by 650 journalists, or "Sarko-show Live from the Elysée" as it reported, during which the head of state hedged on any substantive issues if the questioners were annoying and their queries smacked of editorializing.

"That's a risk the media take in such an exercise, said Le Monde, adding that reporters are well advised to come armed with simple questions or face Sarkozy's wrath.

Media analysts liken the ritual to that exercised by White House reporters who are frozen out of the loop if they cross the line. Sarko, they note, is very American in many ways.

That adds to the chagrin of French media that tend to use diplomatic or flowery language to describe events, unlike their more clinical and direct Anglo-Saxon counterparts.

The sheer volume of the frenetic Sarkozy activities seems to be overwhelming French journalists.

Within a couple of weeks, the media have been inundated with reports of his Middle Eastern peccadilloes, reports of a possible tying of the knot with Carla Bruni in the Elysée Palace, the release of two scathing books about his ex-wife Cécilia - who was photographed philandering with a lover in New York a year before he became president (apparently frustrated by his many extra-marital relations) -- and, his recent triple whammy about banning advertising on France's public television stations, slapping taxes on Internet service providers (who would pass the costs on to consumers) and stopping the much-touted "France 24" channel from broadcasting in other than French.

It boggled media analysts' minds that the station, launched during former President Jacques Chirac's term to compete with CNN, the BBC and Al Jazeera, would become just another parochial French product.

The French also seem of two minds on the possible clandestine presidential nuptials. Some average citizens were delighted to learn Saudi Arabia had asked Sarkozy not to bring Bruni, since she's not a first lady, to the conservative desert kingdom on his recent Middle East jaunt.

The Italian-born model-singer-heiress was first seen in public with the president at Euro Disney where French media had a field day covering the couple.

Bruni, according to a photo essay in Le Nouvel Observateur, is said to have bedded guitarist Eric Clapton, Charles Berling, pianist Jean-Jacques Goldman, actor Kevin Costner, businessman Donald Trump, philosopher Raphael Renthoven (her son's father), Raphael's father Jean-Paul Renthoven, rocker Louis Bertignac who produced an album for her, rocker Mick Jagger (while still with ex-wife Jeri Hall), lawyer Arno Klarsfeld, former French prime minister Laurent Fabius and actor Vincent Perez.

A Power Point of mostly naked slides of Bruni and names of her male conquests is making the rounds in France. The final slide shows Sarkozy saying: "Only the train hasn't passed over her. As for me, I take the plane."