Huffpost Media
THE BLOG

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Magda Abu-Fadil Headshot

Sarko "Bling-Bling," Flings & Carlattitudes

Posted: Updated:

That The New York Times would chastise Nicolas Sarkozy for being unpresidential came as a shock to the French, but delighted media detractors offended by his unconventional behavior, flashy Rolexes and "star" shades.

French media enjoy skewering Sarkozy, whose political party took a drubbing in February's countrywide municipal elections, a candidate for which was his 21-year-old son, Jean, in his home district of Neuilly.

Left-wing Libération quoted a voter as saying: "Jean Sarkozy? I won't vote for an urchin."

The tabloid's readers were amused by reports of the New York Times editorial, with one commenting: "What a 'tentamarre' (uproar) over an issue Libération raised with good reason in December 2007.

The editorial said Sarkozy aides aimed to "represidentialize" him.

"Mr. Sarkozy is far too ebullient to be turned into a clone of his staid and pompous predecessors, but when a politician's behavior gets in the way of his mission, it's time for a dose of discipline," it said.

French media have taken to calling Sarkozy "Président Bling-Bling," given his super kinetic pace, which detractors see as more haste than good speed.

Others refer to him as "Duracell," like the super-charged battery that keeps on running.

Those dismayed by his public (disguised as private) love life, his rich well-placed friends in major corporations, and his lack of decorum in the Elysée Palace -- he often sits with one leg crossed on top of his knee and pointing the sole of his shoe at people -- hope his visit to Britain starting Wednesday will mollify him.

"Nicolas Sarkozy was elected to solve the French people's problems," said Le Nouvel Observateur, adding that 10 months into his term, he is the problem.

Sarkozy's approval ratings have plummeted since taking office, and Le Nouvel Observateur said the man who wanted to become "hyper president" has deflated ("Le president qui fait pschitt").

Prior to Sarkozy's third marriage to model-singer-heiress Carla Bruni, that publication reported he had phone messaged his second wife Cécilia, telling her he'd cancel his wedding plans if she returned to him.

He quickly threatened to sue Le Nouvel Observateur and just as quickly dropped the matter, stunning friend and foe alike.

Sarkozy, Bruni and Cécilia have provided endless fodder for the media with their highly publicized and respective liaisons.

A cartoon quotes Carla telling a dejected Nicolas: "Whoa! I've never seen a guy fizzle out so fast."

Notwithstanding the jabs, Bruni recently defended her husband's "support for press freedom" and denied in an article on media ethics in the sober daily Le Monde that his were despotic actions.

A Libération op-ed entitled "Carlattitude" said the Elysée Palace was capitalizing on Bruni's "sister of the Annunciation" look in recent pictures, unlike Sarkozy's "bling-bling" style, to promote her views on media ethics and to recapture public opinion.

That may be easier said than done. Sarkozy's track record of antagonism towards journalists -- except for influential rich friends in select media circles -- as well as documented public tantrums and insults are not easily swept under the rug.

A cleverly edited YouTube video clip entitled "Sarkozy the king of lies" shows the French president in recent years making promises he never keeps or contradicting pledges he made on the campaign trail.

"Has Nicolas Sarkozy gone overboard?" Le Nouvel Observateur asked several key figures. Former French foreign minister Roland Dumas said the president is suspected of overstepping the bounds of his constitutional powers, given his recent actions.

French Socialist Party legislator and European Parliament Vice President Pierre Moscovici said Sarkozy was debasing the presidency's image.

True to form, Sarkozy responded to a farmer at an agricultural fair who refused to shake hands with him during a presidential visit by telling the man to do something anatomically impossible to himself.

When a question from CBS reporter Lesley Stahl angered him, he walked off the scheduled interview.

His temper was verbalized during his tenure as interior minister when slum-dwellers, mostly of North African descent, went on a rampage to protest poor living conditions and slim job opportunities by calling them "la racaille" (scum).

Sarkozy's former fellow cabinet member Azouz Begag in the Jacques Chirac administration, also of North African descent, wrote in a book published last year and entitled A Sheep in the Bathtub that he objected to the use of the term "racaille."

Asked to comment on proposed immigration legislation the then interior minister wanted implemented to slow the tide of North Africans into France, Begag said his name was not Azouz Sarkozy, whereupon Sarkozy lashed out: "You dummy, you're disloyal, you swine. I'll smash your mouth. You're mocking my name and size. I'll smash your mouth, you swine, you dummy."

On the flip side, Sarkozy has benefited his cronies in the media by appointing the president of France 24, the all-news channel created by Chirac to compete internationally with the likes of Al Jazeera and the BBC in various languages, including Arabic and English, to head a holding company grouping state-run France 24, TV5 Monde and Radio France International.

Alain de Pouzilhac, a Sarkozy buddy of many years who headed the private media giant Havas, is set to oversee the new conglomerate. Its director general is, very coincidentally, newswoman Christine Ockrent, longtime companion of Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner.

"Queen Christine," as referred to by a blogger on L'Express' site, and "Super Poupou" (Pouzilhac) would make a formidable team, given Kouchner's equally weighty influence on French broadcasting aimed at foreign audiences.

But broadcast syndicates and TV5 Monde's chairman have blasted the proposed foreign audiovisual changes, claiming existing partnerships with Francophone stations worldwide would disappear under the new company.

Sarko Bling-Bling and Carlattitude's salvation from their media woes may, ironically, be found across the Channel this week, as they are hosted by Queen Elizabeth.

British daily the Times headlined with "Nicolas Sarkozy hopes to gain a little 'va va voom' from the Queen."

It said the Sarkozys' visit was a gamble the French president's handlers hoped would show him in a more dignified light. But, it concluded, it will take "only one diplomatic gaffe (such as reading his mobile phone texts in Her Majesty's presence, as he did recently during an audience with the Pope) to unleash a fresh flood of negative headlines."