WikiLeaked: Nicolas Sarkozy's bunny
Today's new WikiLeaks cables contain new material about Pakistan's ties to the Taliban and other weighty matters. But my eye was caught by the dispatch that the Guardian newspaper headlined: "Sarkozy chases pet rabbit around his office."
It seems the French president, while serving as interior minister in 2006, was visited in his office by then-U.S. ambassador Craig Stapleton. Most of Stapleton's cable is devoted to describing Nicolas Sarkozy's expressions of gratitude for having been scheduled for a meeting with then-President Bush -- which is perhaps why the ambassador felt obliged to classify his dispatch.
The end of the cable, however, describes how Sarkozy leaned out a window and invited his nine-year-old son, who was playing in an adjacent garden, to come meet the American ambassador. As Stapleton goes on to describe it:
Louis appeared at the threshold with a small dog at his feet and a large rabbit in his arms. To shake hands with the Ambassador, Louis put down the rabbit -- and the dog started chasing the rabbit through Sarkozy's office, which led to the unforgettable sight of Sarkozy, bent over, chasing the dog through the ante-room to his office as the dog chased the rabbit, and Louis filled the room with gleeful laughter.
The dispatch is a reminder of the intimate observations U.S. diplomats are sometimes able to gather -- some trivial, some important. In Sarkozy's case, American envoys appear to have a particularly sharp eye for personal foibles. A 2007 dispatch from Morocco notes disapprovingly that Sarkozy appeared to be rude to the Moroccan king during an official visit: "In one image, Sarkozy was seen crossing his legs and pointing the sole of his shoe at the King - a taboo gesture in the Islamic world."
Another dispatch describing his meetings with African visitors as president says "his bedside manner needed fine-tuning":
Presidential Advisor Remi Marechaux says that when Sarkozy is confident on substance or at ease with an interlocutor, he speaks freely without relying on briefing material. This occasionally causes problems when he strays from "official" policy, with others then steering the discussion back on course. When he is less familiar with an issue or with an interlocutor, he will read talking points verbatim, with little attempt to disguise what he is doing, sometimes thumbing through briefing books looking for information while his interlocutor is speaking.
Adding a little of its own puckishness, the Guardian -- one of the news organizations given special access to the WikiLeaks material -- headlines other State Department dispatches about the French leader as follows: "Nicolas Sarkozy's hyperactive management style is exhausting and stressful"; Nicolas Sarkozy likely to neglect smaller EU countries as he doesn't like dealing with 'unimportant people'"; "Nicolas Sarkozy is brilliant but impatient and undiplomatic"; Nicolas Sarkozy's flaunting of the Carla Bruni relationship was a big mistake"; and not least, "Nicolas Sarkozy's divorce from Cecilia risks upsetting the delicate balance of his thin-skinned, authoritarian personality."
No doubt the thin-skinned authoritarian is not taking all this too well. But at least the world now knows that he loves bunnies.
| December 1, 2010; 12:29 PM ET
Categories: Diehl | Tags: Jackson Diehl
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