French President Nicolas Sarkozy toasted the U.S. at a White House dinner Tuesday at the start of a visit that has already helped repair relations over the Iraq war. Sarkozy in August made a surprise trip to Baghdad to express his commitment to fostering reconciliation and rebuilding there, and he said in his toast that greater cooperation between the U.S. and France on terrorism would help advance the cause of freedom worldwide. “I want to recapture the heart of America,” Sarkozy said.
What the commentators said
Freedom fries are officially off the menu in Washington, said the Associate Press’ Deb Riechmann in The Boston Globe (free registration). Sarkozy has clearly made it his mission to close the book on the “clash” between his predecessor, Jacques Chirac, and Bush. It looks like a “cozier chapter” in U.S.-French relations” has begun.
It’s not hard to improve on Chirac, said the National Review Online in an editorial. He “made anti-Americanism a keynote of his foreign policy” even when it “wasn’t in France’s advantage.” But Sarkozy’s plan to make France more “American” in its foreign policy and its “economic dynamism” puts him on a collision course with the French establishment, so let’s keep our hopes for this new friendship “modest.”
Don’t downplay the significance of this “happy first date,” said Faye Fiore in the Los Angeles Times (free registration). It was only four years ago that snippy politicians started eating “Freedom fries” on Capitol Hill. Now “Republican notables” are swooning for the man the French call “Sarko l’Americain.” Newt Gingrich has praised Sarkozy for telling the French to work harder and cut taxes. Rudy Giuliani now says France is one of his favorite countries. Fred Thompson wants to “toast the end of the long estrangement with French wine.” Clearly, something has changed.