On Booty Calls and Morning Croissants, Ctd. 2

Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy is now weighing in on the ongoing scandal of the presidential booty calls and morning croissants, claiming that President Hollande has made himself and the French presidency “ridiculous”.

The Telegraph reports the following quote attributed to Sarkozy by French investigative journal Le Canard:

“While everyone has the right to a private life, when one is a public figure and president, one must be careful to avoid being ridiculous,” he is quoted as scoffing.

“Well, that photo of Hollande coming out of his mistress’ place with a motorbike helmet makes Hollande look totally ridiculous. He is the ridiculous president.”

The Daily Mail gives an even less flattering report of Sarkozy’s views:

Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy views his successor Francois Hollande as a ‘ridiculous little fat man who dyes his hair’, it emerged today.

The vicious attack is reported by l’Express, the highly respected Paris news magazine whose editor is a close friend of Mr Sarkozy’s third wife, Carla Bruni.

As I see it, the bottom line is this – in three weeks, the French president has to fly to Washington, D.C. to represent his country abroad and maintain bilateral ties with a close ally. And all anyone will care about is whether Hollande might be found late at night zipping around capitol hill on the back of a scooter, looking for ladies. Even if there are non-scandal-related questions at the joint press conference, the only soundbites that will be reported will relate to the scandal back home in France. Hollande is supposed to make his country look good abroad, strengthen bilateral ties and promote France’s interests. Barring a miracle and a swift resolution to this tawdry affair, he won’t be doing that for some time to come.

The scandal is also now causing disquiet and unrest at home, as Buzzfeed reports that a man was arrested for dumping several tonnes of horse manure in front of the Palais Bourbon in protest at Hollande and the French political class in general:

Image from buzzfeed.com
Image from buzzfeed.com

And so this isn’t just an issue of invasion of privacy, or an educational tale highlighting the different attitudes toward privacy between the French and Anglo-American cultures. This is about basic competence, and the ability of a senior politician and statesman to effectively do their job. Actions taken in ones private life can impact this ability to effectively perform the job, and while the utmost respect and tact should rightly be shown to the president as he works through any problems in his personal life (as many have already argued), the most searching and uncompromising oversight should be applied to his performance in the job.

Francois Hollande has, through his own actions, rendered himself incompetent and, to some degree, incapacitated – politically, at least. This incapacity may be temporary or it may be irreversible, but either way it is self-inflicted and profound. It is down to the French people to determine how long they are willing to tolerate a leader for their failings, not in terms of their personal life but in terms of their ability to do the job.