The French Are Different From You And Me

[Ross] If you read Jane Kramer on the French elections (and then Christopher Hitchens on what she left out), you won't just have a good sense of the state of political play in la belle France, you'll also have a pointed reminder of the gulf between French and American attitudes toward sex and marriage, particularly where public figures are concerned. America isn't nearly as puritanical as people like to claim: Rudy Giuliani is taken seriously as a Presidential candidate in spite of being twice-divorced and having publicly cheated on the second Mrs. Giuliani, Bill Clinton was President in spite of frequently cheating on his wife, and even social conservatives have been known to fall in love with divorcees and flagrant philanderers from time to time. And while we expect our politicians to actually be married, rather than raising their kids in a pacte civil de solidarité, the weird political-personal relationship between Ségolène Royal and François Hollande isn't that different from the Bill-and-Hillary union, as Kramer notes.

But then there's this:

[Sarkozy] has been known to threaten the press over articles he didn’t like (Libération) or to exact revenge when he has been embarrassed. When his wife, Cécilia, had a serious fling in New York last year, and the paparazzi caught up with her and her boyfriend, he called his friend Arnaud Lagardère, the owner of Paris Match, and Lagardère obligingly fired the editor-in-chief who had signed off on publishing the pictures. (Both men deny there was any pressure.) Cécilia came back, after which Sarkozy added a notably un-French confession to his campaign autobiography, saying that whatever problems they’d had were all his faultthat he loved her and she loved him, but that his passion for France had made him inattentive. He promised her the stars and the moon forever, and since then she has played a strong role in his campaign. When I saw Sarkozy last month at the ministry and asked about the two men who would be sitting in on our interview, I was told, “One comes from Cécilia, the other from Nicolas.”

Pause for a moment and try to imagine what would happen to, say, the Presidential campaign of John McCain if his wife were carrying on a public affair.