The Magazine

Le Kennedy Noir

Paris sulks: Why Berlin and not us?

Aug 4, 2008, Vol. 13, No. 44 • By ANNE-ELISABETH MOUTET
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For in Paris, it's the media and the banlieues (the projects) that drive the Obamamania filling every front page, from Libération to Le Figaro. There were more people inside the Elysée, jostling for a seat in the press room or a good camera angle in front of the palace, than in the rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré outside. A crowd 300 strong, including a sizable number of tourists and more black faces than one usually sees in this exclusive part of town, started a chant of "Yes, We Can!" outside as the candidate's motorcade was leaving at full speed for the airport, followed by a busload of traveling correspondents. We, the Paris-based press, went to interview them under the blasé gaze of the police.

"Did you see him? Isn't he marvelous?" a cheerful secretary named Victoire, come specially from her office near the Opéra with a girlfriend, gushed. "We wouldn't see this in France." "That's why America is so formidable," said the friend, who like Victoire was born in northern Paris of Cameroonian parents.

I couldn't help contrasting their large smiles and enthusiastic tone with the silkily venomous and cultured voice of Hubert Védrine, the former Socialist foreign minister, heard this very morning on Radio Luxembourg. Védrine coined the expression "hyperpower" about America. He opposes it. It was, he explained, simply time for America to understand she couldn't go it alone, but had to behave responsibly among other nations and international institutions. Unfortunately, in his view, Barack Obama had started making worrisome statements, several steps back from his earlier multilateralist commitments.
"But you know," Védrine confided to his morning-show audience with Talleyrand-like sophistication, "that's just the way you have to win an election, isn't it? From a few things Mr. Obama has let escape, I think he still believes in the principles he had at the beginning. I am very hopeful."

Anne-Elisabeth Moutet is a political journalist in Paris and a frequent contributor to the BBC.