My Paris Stories
My Concierge Told Me
My Paris Stories

The naked emperor

I’m not talking about the allegations as to whether Sarkozy authorised illegal kickbacks from arms sales to Pakistan to fund a political campaign, even if the British Guardian sees here “the most potentially damaging corruption scandal of his career”.

I’m talking about the divestment of the French president.

Here are the facts.

In 2007 the American magazine Esquire named him one of the “Best dressed Men in the world”. They praised his look: “Trim, mostly three-button suits and wide shirt collars.” And then they added, what they called the take-away, talking about his navy-blue Prada suit. “He cares, plain and simple. So should everyone.”

The Devil wears Prada

For the inauguration ceremony his former wife Cécilia was also wearing Prada. And not Lanvin or Dior. What could have been interpreted as a diplomatic incidence was in fact a question of public relations: Cecilia’s best friend at that time was non other than the France press officer of the Italian fashion label.

I really don’t know what happened then to poor petit Nicolas. Just three years later, Cécilia was gone, Carla was there, and since then President has fallen off his style pedestal and landed far, far below. Again he was on a list. But this time on the list of “The worst dressed men” elected by GQ magazine. In January of this year, Sarkozy arrived third just behind Gordon Brown and Russell Brand. What a fashion career and with such a gorgeous ex-model on his side.

But, this was apparently nothing. Or just the beginning. Since last weekend when first Wikileaks documents of US diplomatic cables were revealed, everybody, everywhere, knows that Nicolas Sarkozy is a “naked emperor”. That’s really not very flattering, but the dust will probably settle slowly after Sunday’s revelations. Next year the “9/11 of World diplomacy”, as Italian Foreign minister Franco Frattini described the leaks, will probably be forgotten. Or nearly. But one thing will remain in the mind of the French people: their naked emperor.

Too big for his britches

I can’t help myself, but I find the fact that the German chancellor Angela Merkel is described as “risk averse” not very hurtful. She is “rarely creative”? Surprise, surprise! And didn’t we all know that Silvio Berlusconi was “feckless, vain, and ineffective”? Of course we did. That’s even more obvious than his uncountable plastic surgeries. And Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is Hitler? Well, he would love to be, I guess. And we all, of course, had more than a hunch that Sarkozy is "susceptible and authoritarian". After all, he used to phone journalists if he wasn’t happy with their reporting.

But being a naked emperor? That’s really a devastating judgement. Do you remember the Hans Christian Anderson tale of “The Emperor’s New Clothes”? Two weavers promise an Emperor a new suit of clothes that are invisible to those unfit for their positions, stupid, or incompetent. The Emperor of course pretends to see the fabric in order not to appear stupid. He gets “dressed” and parades before his subjects. An only a child cries out the truth: “But he isn’t wearing anything at all!”

The moral of the story? It’s not about Lanvin, Dior or Prada suits. It’s about the power of imagination in politics. It’s about delusions of grandeur and the disillusionment that follows always right on the heels.Photos:
Both in Prada at the inauguration ceremony
Philippe Wojyzer AFP (Sarkozy with local authorities in Camop, French Guiana)