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Posted at 12:29 PM ET, 12/ 1/2010

WikiLeaked: Nicolas Sarkozy's bunny

By Jackson Diehl

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.

By Jackson Diehl  | December 1, 2010; 12:29 PM ET
Categories:  Diehl  | Tags:  Jackson Diehl  
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Next: How about stopping 'one guy with a laptop'?

Comments

I wonder what kind of comments the Europeans and others have to say about American diplomats.

For instance, after the US's CIA were caught trying to kidnap someone on Italian soil did they regard the Americans as having double standards ('do as we say and not as we do'). What did they think when the US refused to deliver those Agents to Italy so that they could stand trial on these kidnapping charges?

Do the Germans regard the comments made by American diplomats about Angela Merkel as trite and puerile.

What comments have been made about America's covert and overt operations in Latin America which were designed to destabilise economies and governments because the US did not like the governments elected by the people of those countries. Apparently, the Americans were comfortable with torture by Dictators and uncomfortable with democratic elections and their outcomes.

Americans are doctrinaire bullies. No one proved this more than Dubya and his supporters who were upset by 911 but cheered when American planes bombed Iraq on grounds that were shown to be false.

America is a bully and wikileaks is exposing this with American documents. Thankyou.

On the other hand, Americans are condemning Assange and wikileaks without reading what has been published. Almost all of the material has appeared in the press in one form or another and it merely adds credence to what journalists have been saying. I guess we are entitled to conclude that Americans believe in vigilante justice. They like to hold the hanging and condemnation in the absence of compelling evidence.

The American government has proclaimed that terrible things might happen because of the leaks but its statements are vague. That doesn't matter because enough Americans support this irrational kangaroo court without knowing why just as they supported the assumption that all detainees in Guantanamo Bay were terrorists.

The phrase Dumb Yanks was devised because many Americans were born stupid and they will die stupid. Don't get upset by this rude comment because it sums you up beautifully. If you weren't reckless and silly the phrase would not exist.

Posted by: robertjames1 | December 2, 2010 12:22 AM | Report abuse

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