"Ruthless, Us-Against-Them" Sarkozy Wins French Presidency

Bitter Sciolino on conservative Sarkozy's victory in France: "In this election, authority apparently is deemed to be more important than compassion."

Paris-based reporter Elaine Sciolino continued to nurse her long-standing grudge against Nicolas Sarkozy, thetough-on-crime presidential candidate of France, in two stories, one before and one after Sarkozy routed Socialist candidate Segolene Royal to win the presidency.

Sciolino wrote in Saturday's "France to Vote After Presidential Race's Scorching Finale":

"He has gambled -apparently successfully - during the campaign that by turning hard right he would win over supporters of Jean-Marie Le Pen, the head of the extreme right National Front who made it into the second round of the 2002 election but made it into only fourth place this time.

"While Ms. Royal has pledged to protect and unite France, Mr. Sarkozy has often taken a ruthless us-against-them attitude, stressing there is no place in France for young people who do not respect the law or for immigrants who do not embrace French values.

"In Montpellier on Thursday, where he made his last campaign speech, Mr. Sarkozy railed against those who do not like him. 'People accuse me of encouraging public anger,' he said. 'But who's angry? The thugs? The drug traffickers? I can assure you - I do not seek to be the friend of thugs.'"

"In this election, authority apparently is deemed to be more important than compassion."

"Compassion" that Sciolino apparently wants directed toward the thugs now rioting in protest of Sarkozy.

Sarkozy's win was Monday's lead story, and Sciolino remained hostile.

"Ms. Royal had repeatedly appealed to the women of France to vote for her in a show of female solidarity. But Mr. Sarkozy, a conservative who made his reputation as a hard-line minister of the interior, got the majority of the women's vote, according to Ipsos, an international polling company."


"He also struck a conciliatory note, reaching out to the huge swath of French people who seem to fear him, especially in the country's ethnically and racially mixed suburbs, where he is accused of fueling tensions with his provocative language and an aggressive police presence."


"With his raw, often divisive rhetoric, Mr. Sarkozy will have to change course to neutralize deep-rooted hostility against him, particularly in the tough ethnic suburbs.

"About 2,000 people gathered at Place de la Bastille in central Paris to await the election results, with some burning an effigy of Mr. Sarkozy before tearing it apart.

"But within two hours of the polls closing, the scene had degenerated into violent clashes between the police and several hundred people in the crowd who smashed windows and set one vehicle on fire."


"The election was a triumph of raw ambition, efficiency and political sleight-of-hand. The French president is an odd invention - part monarch and part elected politician. There is no other elected political office in Europe that comes with as much power and grandeur.

"Throughout the campaign, Mr. Sarkozy had portrayed himself as an outsider, an immigrant's son with a foreign-sounding name, a man who never went to one of France's elite universities. He is also the quintessential political insider, however, a longtime figure in party politics and a member of the cabinet of President Jacques Chirac for much of the past five years. But he succeeded in making himself look like a political outsider, distancing himself from Mr. Chirac, who was seen by the French as old, tired and powerless in the twilight of his 12-year presidency."

Reporter Craig Smith joined in with his "Man in The News" sidebar to Sarkozy's victory, "France's Conservative Dervish." The online subhed: "Sarkozy Wins the Chance to Prove His Critics Wrong."

"Arrogant, brutal, an authoritarian demagogue, a 'perfect Iago': the president-elect of France has been called a lot of unpleasant things in recent months and now has five years to prove his critics wrong."

What does Sarkozy have to prove, given that he handily won the election?

"He has always been nakedly ambitious, pragmatic, calculating and not beyond betrayal to reach his goals.

"He is full of nervous energy, often rocking on his toes when not at the center of attention - a habit that sometimes makes him look taller than he is in photographs but otherwise draws attention to his small stature."

The previous version of the article (as first posted online Sunday evening)went on to compare him (unfavorably!) to Napoleon: "Mr. Sarkozy is a tad shorter than Napoleon was. His profile is remarkably similar to that of Louis XIV."

There's debate on just how short Napoleon really was, so besides being a cheap shot, that sentence is factually muddled as well, which perhaps explains its removal from the print edition.