mardi 26 août 2008


It isn't that I am apolitical, but I have not followed American politics as closely as I should have in recent years. In my defense, I would put forth the fact that for most of the last 25 years I have not lived in the United States. I have watched US politics from afar, and got quickly absorbed in French politics. It was easy to be drawn in, living in Paris. I actually saw many of the big name career politicians going about their daily business. Maybe people who live in Washington DC feel the same way about their "local" politicians.

For instance, I once saw Sarkozy (photo from when he was the young mayor of Neuilly-sur-Seine) jogging around Parc Monceau. It was my neighborhood park and the place where I took my daily walks. At the time, he was the rising star in Chirac's government (actually, Dominique de Villepin's government, presided over by Chirac), much to Chirac's dismay. He was Minister of the Interior, and lived at Place Beauveau, which is just next door to the Elysée Palace, the White House of French Presidents. Incidentally, the US and British Embassies are the nearest neighbors. How cozy. Anyway, Sarko and several of his bodyguards were jogging around the path that encircles Parc Monceau (about 1 kilometer around). It was a brilliantly sunny Sunday morning; naturally, the entire 8th arrondissement was out and about. Nobody bothered him, but everyone was aware of his presence. He would have been mobbed in the US or anyplace else. But the French, and more specifically the denizens of the 8th, left him alone but cut him a wide swath. They had to, given the size of his entourage. What fascinated me was how short he was (a fact apparently discovered by the rest of France only after he was elected) and what a big butt he had. A womanly butt and hips. I thought to myself, it's a good thing he has political power because otherwise he would have trouble getting laid. And now look at him. Cécilia leaves and is replaced a couple of months later by La Belle Carla Bruni. She is several inches taller than he is, even in flats, and had a long career as a top model back in the days when that meant something! She said it was love at first sight (un coup de foudre). It must have been those womanly hips. As David Byrne once sang, the world moves on a woman's hips. I guess so!

On a more prosaic note, I saw the Corsican elephant Charles Pasqua going into what I took to be his Paris office one day. But he deserves a whole blog entry devoted to his person. Suffice to say at this time that he and his actions apparently inspired the film The French Connection. And not in a good way.

There have been others over the years. Lionel Jospin, in the final days of his stint as Minister of Education. Jack Lang (Langue de Blois), near La Place des Vosges.

But I digress. I really wanted to write about the Democratic Convention, which uncharacteristically had me glued to the telly last night. Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg was a huge disappointment as a speaker -- bad delivery, no substance. Her Uncle Teddy was simply amazing: the man has brain cancer, after all. He was forceful, eloquent, on fire even. It could just be the medication but, if so, then everyone in this country really does deserve decent health care! Then came Michelle Obama. It was the first time I had heard her speak. She was absolutely phenomenal, and I am not saying this as a groupie or a Democratic partisan (even though I would rather vote for a Democratic psychopath than any Republican, because they're all sociopaths). From a public speaking point of view, she was perfect. Tone, substance, delivery, eye contact, sincerity, timing, you name it, she had it going on. Maybe the bit with the kids at the end was a little cheesy, but who cares? I was eating out of her hand by then. Not a dry eye in the house. I realized watching her that the real reason the fat cats--the ones who vote Republican, send their kids to private schools and don't want to share any of their wealth with people like her--want to maintain the status quo is that people like her, who start out without the advantages, just make people like them look like pampered woosies who could not make it out of the starting gate if the playing field were really level. The fat cats need that built-in advantage because they are mediocre. And the success of someone like Michelle Obama is so much more satisfying and meaningful.
People with money wonder why their kids are spoiled and unmotivated. I think there is no real mystery: Why reach for the stars when everything that glitters is handed to you on a silver platter? Why take risks when you know that you won't be allowed to fail because it would look bad? Food for thought, fat cats. Think about it. And in the meantime, take a chance on change. Vote for Obama.