Sunday, February 16, 2014

In France, a Scandal about Presidential Style

The basic rule of French manners has long been that you can get away with anything if you do it with sufficient style. The important rules are not exactly moral, but are more about not being gauche. Consider the current President, socialist François Hollande, who has managed to offend both feminists and traditionalists by his unorthodox treatment of the women in his life:
“The whole problem with this Hollande scandal is that he is not married,” says Jean-Marie Rouart, the French novelist. “Had he been married, this affair would never have been revealed.”

He observed that, as an “elected monarch,” the president has to maintain appearances. “In France, having a mistress is not considered cheating,” he says. “We are not a puritanical country. France is Catholic. We accept sin and forgiveness.”

It’s bad enough to hide under a helmet and dismiss your security and go incognito on an Italian scooter to have a tryst in an apartment that is a stone’s throw from the Élysée Palace and has some tenuous connection to the Corsican Mafia. But everyone here except François Hollande seems to agree: You do not install one mistress at the Élysée when you have another mistress. That is simply bad form.
French journalists have attacked Hollande's behavior by saying that in romantic matters he is "no better than Bill Clinton." Imagine, the President of France at the level of an ambitious Arkansas hick! Shocking.

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