The picture of a French president who jogs, vacations in New Hampshire and even seems comfortable around President George W. Bush is so unusual that it has earned Nicolas Sarkozy the nickname of "Sarko the American." That, along with France's toughened stand against Iran's nuclear appetites, won Sarkozy bipartisan applause in Washington this month.
It is certainly a relief to have a French leader who wants to improve relations with the United States. The two countries have plenty of common interests, including fighting terrorism, keeping Iran from developing nuclear weapons and nurturing democracy in Lebanon.
[…]Last week, days after his return from Washington, Sarkozy addressed the European Union Parliament, where he offered a worryingly old-style French program for building protectionist walls around an economically and demographically exclusive Europe. His approach would discriminate against foreign companies and third world farmers. And, as he has previously made clear, he will do all he can to keep Turkey out of the European Union. If Sarkozy's ideas prevail - a realistic possibility - they would inflict long-term damage on France and Europe.
Many Europeans, like many Americans, feel threatened by globalization. But the challenge cannot be met with Sarkozy's misconceived ideas, including designating threatened European companies as nationally backed contenders, and giving them special legal and economic privileges. That approach will see sheltered European firms fall even further behind newer and more efficient competitors from India, China and elsewhere.
[…] It would be nice to welcome a new French-American alliance. But first, Sarkozy will have to resolve the conflict between his enlightened trans-Atlantic overtures and his narrow protectionist vision for Europe.
I have a big problem with the New York Times editorial because it is acting as if it is discovering that Sarkozy has these views and that he is against the Turkey’s entrance into the European Union. One gets the impression that the Times believes that Sarkozy’s love for America means that he will forget politics and just do what is good for America or rather that he will forget that he is the Right Wing president of France, a country that is trying to find its place within a globalizing world. My point is simple: the New York Times and other American newspapers have turned Sarkozy into a superhero that is revolutionizing France focusing on his image and his love of America while forgetting that politics and governing are about substance and about the results of specific policies. Sarkozy is a politician with a backbone. This means that he isn’t an empty vessel, which will be filled with new ideas because they look chic and proper even though he does love glamour and the lights of the cameras. I’ve always argued that the only things modern and American about Sarkozy are his image, the way he does politics, and his belief in force and power. The New York Times should accept this reality instead of holding on to the myth of super Sarko. Thus, the lesson here is a simple one, Atlanticism and a love for America aren’t a sign of greatness and of progressivism, but can be signs of conservatism and potent populism.