French finance minister Nicolas Sarkozy was in Washington last week. Until recently, Sarkozy was the minister of interior. In that post, he gained a significant following as a result of his dynamic and forceful anti-terrorism policies. In addition, Sarkozy, who has Jewish origins, attempted to step up the battle against anti-semitism in France. Sarkozy’s high profile made him a rival to both Jacques Chirac and his pet minister and protege, the anti American foreign minister Dominique de Villepin. Accordingly, Chirac reshuffled his cabinet, giving de Villepin Sarkozy’s interior post and moving Sarkozy to finance minister, a post in which it will be difficult for Sarkozy to grandstand (as Chirac sees it) and, indeed, to succeed. I discussed these developments here.
It should not be surprising that Sarkozy’s visit to Washington was not that of your average finance minister. Sarkozy met with Jewish leaders here to discuss the problem of anti-semitism. In addition, he met with top foreign policy officials at the White House and the State Department. Given his rivals for future political power — Chirac/de Villepin and the Socialists — one hopes that the U.S. is cultivating Sarkozy.
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