President Obama may be impressing the French people, but he hasn’t particularly impressed their leader, President Sarkozy, at least not according to this report.
Sarkozy was quoted as telling a group of French MPs that Obama is inexperienced and indecisive. According to Sarkozy, “Obama has a subtle mind, very clever and very charismatic.” However Obama “was elected two months ago and had never run a ministry; there are a certain number of things on which he has no position, and he is not always up to standard on decision-making and efficiency.”
For example, Sarkozy claimed that Obama underperformed on climate change when they met. According to one account of the MP’s session, Sarkozy told our president, “I don’t think that you have quite understood what we are doing on carbon dioxide.'”
If Sarkozy actually said these things, it probably reflects more poorly on him than on Obama. Note, for example, the characteristic French snobbery of the notion that Obama isn’t ready because “he had never run a ministry.” (If he had said Obama has never run anything substantial, he would have been closer to the mark). There may also be a touch of envy in Sarkozy’s remarks. Indeed, Sarkozy was reportedly irked that Obama received (took?) credit for brokering a deal between France and China over language on tax havens.
Finally, Sarkozy reportedly took shots at other leaders as well. They included Spain’s JosÃ© Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, supposedly described by Sarkozy as “perhaps not very clever.”
But the fact that Sarkozy comes off badly doesn’t mean that his general view of Obama is wrong. In any event, we can say at a minimum that Obama has not completely bridged the sophistication (or is it cynicism) gap between the U.S. and France.