French President Makes Michelle Obama his Cause Celebre
The White House is refusing to comment today on reports that first lady Michelle Obama got special treatment during her trip to France last month.
Long after her departure, it seems, the first lady continues to be treated like a rock star -- or even like a princess -- in France, especially by President Nicolas Sarkozy.
Sarkozy says he made special calls to get stores opened for Mrs. Obama when she took her daughters, Malia and Sasha, shopping in Paris during their trip last month.
"Is it normal that when Mrs. Obama and her daughters, on a Sunday, want to go shopping in Paris stores, I have to make a call to get the shops to open?" Sarkozy said Tuesday during a speech in the Paris suburb of La Defense. "All the Obama supporters were there. Who is going to explain to them why France is the only country where shops are closed on Sundays?"
A few days before President Obama and his family traveled to Paris on the first weekend of June, the U.S. Embassy in Paris called Bonpoint, an upscale children's boutique in the St.-Germain-des-Près neighborhood, asking for the store to be opened for the visiting first family, Bloomberg reports.
The Daily News adds, "Presumably the boutique won't have to worry about paying hefty fines for shops that buck a 1906 law banning most Sunday shopping." The Paris stringer for the Daily News wrote a story Tuesday titled "Michelle Obama enjoys Paris privilege barred to millions in France: Sunday shopping."
Sarkozy is now hailing Michelle Obama as his prime example for why France should loosen its tough restrictions on shopping on Sundays. He says he will propose a bill in the coming weeks to accomplish just that, according to Bloomberg.
Contacted by the Sleuth, the first lady's press secretary, Katie McCormick Lelyveld, declined comment on the stories about Sarkozy's attempts to relax the shopping ban and his seemingly shrewd public relations decision to use Mrs. Obama as his cause celebre.
According to Bloomberg, Sarkozy's government attempted to loosen the Sunday labor rules earlier this year, an effort that was derailed by the Socialist-led opposition.
The Daily News notes that if Mrs. Obama had waited just three weeks and timed her trip for Paris's twice-annual sales, "her Bonpoint outing would have been much cheaper, with items marked down up to 50%."
Ah, c'est dommage!
Mary Ann Akers
July 1, 2009; 1:59 PM ET
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