Tomorrow the French go to the polls to vote in the first round of their presidential elections.
The French, they vote on Sundays, because, as is well known, they are against God.
They are also against Nicolas Sarkozy, the nation’s current president. Who is seeking a second term. But who now seems less likely to serve again as president, than Tom Thumb, Wile E. Coyote, or a petri dish of scabies.
Sarkozy’s own prime minister, Francois Fillon, has decreed: “the carrots are cooked.” Fillon’s predecessor, Jean-Pierre Raffarin, moans “there is no chance of us winning.”
It is part of being French to occasionally embark upon an unfortunate love affair. That is what happened here. The French electorate, heady with too much cheap political wine, hallucinated that Sarkozy was the man of their dreams. But, the morning after, they awoke to discover that he is actually an animal. Somehow they had slipped between the sheets with a truly strange and unnatural creature, a sort of cross between a ferris wheel and a werewolf, a Dr. Moreau melange of an avaricious dwarf and a bad-tempered pot-bellied pig.
And this realization set in almost literally upon the morning after.
Five years ago, as the electorate prepared to engage in its usual scorn of Yahweh by trudging to the polls on Sunday, victory for Sarkozy was assured. Publicly, Sarkozy piously proclaimed that, once the voters had officially spoken, he would for a time retire from public view: he would enter a monastery, there to “rest, retreat. I must prepare myself to occupy this place. I need calm and serenity to find the necessary distance.”
Privately, however, he gloated: “I will have a palace in Paris, a castle in Rambouillet, and a fort in Bregancon. That’s the way it will be.”
And, once the votes were tallied, he threw a lavish election-night party for a small coterie of his wealthiest supporters, in the swank brassiere Fouquet’s, then flew off the next morning for a leisurely cruise off the coast of Malta, aboard a 200-foot yacht owned by his billionaire corporate-raiding pal Vincent Bollore.
As Philip Gourevitch writes in a December 2011 profile in The New Yorker:
Fouquet’s and the yacht: even now, when the French discuss their contempt for Sarkozy the conversation tends to turn quickly back to the impression he made in those first few days after the election—the ostentation, the exclusivity, the strutting, nouveau-riche vulgarity.
And it’s not like he has since changed.
Last fall, presiding over the opening of a traveling exhibition of modern art, Sarkozy could fix only on money. “That cost millions,” he observed of a painting by Yves Klein. “Is a Klein more than a Leger? Less than a Matisse?”
Uncomfortable with his close relationship with George II, the French took to calling him “Sarko the American.” To which Sarkozy replied: “they consider it an insult, but I take it as a compliment”—an outrage that, in an earlier era, would have sent his head rolling into a basket.
When the Obamas entered the White House, Sarkozy shoveled to the Obama daughters several editions of a French comic book. “Were there not other works to offer to them that would evoke French genius?” wailed Franck Mouchi in Le Monde, opining that a non-buffoon French president would have presented Sasha and Malia with Proust.
Because he is French, Sarkozy while in office switched wives. He entered office married to Cecilia, who had earlier warned: “I don’t see myself as First Lady; it bores me.” When she left Sarkozy to return to her lover, the president took up with Carla Bruni, a woman famously bored by monogamy, who has publicly sighed that “burning desire” lasts only about two weeks. Bruni, she Sarkozy promptly squired to Euro Disney. Which caused a member of his own government to rend his garments, as “Euro Disney is the worst image in France for someone who is already seen as uncultured.”
When, during an audience with the Pope, Sarkozy pounded away at his Blackberry, French philosopher Pascal Bruckner moaned that “he desecrates everything,” pronouncing Sarkozy “a figure from Italian comedy.” Sarkozy’s former friend Bernard-Henri Levy has stated that Sarkozy, “in morphing as he has from a questionable but imposing statesman to a quaint, Warholian character, may now interest only folklorists, or students of political curiosities.” Dominique de Villepin, who will probably be charged with salvaging the wreckage Sarkozy has made of the French center-right, describes “Sarkozyism” as “the marriage on a dissecting table of the sewing machine and the umbrella. Sarkozyism is surrealism.”
Sarkozy has even heaved cheese out of the presidential palace. He doesn’t like it, so he doesn’t want it around. He also eschews wine, in favor of Diet Coke. Guzzling Diet Coke, while tossing wheels of cheese into the garbage, is the French equivalent of Barack Obama placing a baby, a crucifix, and a legless soldier on the White House lawn, and then peeing on them.