The election of Nicolas Sarkozy to the presidency of France has been a serious blow to those who claim that America has earned the undying hatred of Europeans. Oh, to be sure, the French media hates us, but there are a lot of people who say ours does too. Regardless, Sarkozy's victory has sent shock waves through the world's media centers.
A French president who openly admires America is an embarrassment to those who view us as the country bumpkin cousins of the sophisticated Europeans. American pundits and politicians who say we should change our foreign policies to win the European popularity contest ought to be feeling a little embarrassed too.
From the beginning, Sarkozy pledged to help heal the ill feelings that have existed between our two countries -- especially over Iraq. He outraged French Socialists and journalists by coming to America during his campaign to meet with our president. He has praised America's dynamism, freedoms and prosperity, and he promises to work for reforms that will make France more like the U.S.
Sarkozy’s victory over anti-American political forces was not just decisive; it was far more of a mandate than our own current congress claims. In his first post-election speech, he went out of his way to say, "I want to call out to our American friends to tell them that they can count on our friendship."
So what’s happening here? Could it be that we've mistaken the French media for the French people? Might the same be true of Germany, where pro-American Angela Merkel beat a critic of the U.S. to become that nation's leader?
I think that's part of it, but it also has a lot to do with Iran's race to get nuclear weapons and missiles capable of striking the heart of Europe. President Ahmadinejad has been regularly threatening European nations that won’t go along with his master plan.
Ahmadinejad’s threats are taken particularly seriously by the French, because there are a lot of people inside France who seem to share his goals. For years, the French have endured terrible intimidation, violence and riots at the hands of people who openly hate their democratic institutions. In the run-up to the presidential election, French voters were plainly threatened with even more bloodshed and destruction if they dared to elect Nicolas Sarkozy. As promised, that violence is now taking place nightly on streets across France.
The refusal by the French people to bow to this political extortion should be recognized and cheered. They have not only sent a message to anti-democratic forces inside and outside their borders, I believe they are telling us something even more important. We are beginning, I think, to see our old friends and allies put aside disagreements and rivalries to do what has to be done. It has been a long road, but the forces of civilization and order are beginning to understand that we are in a global struggle against the forces of death and destruction.
Maybe it’s time to rethink the "boycott France" movement that got so much attention a few years ago. Americans once toasted General Lafayette, and his son Georges Washington Lafayette. I think this would be a good time to toast Monsieur Sarkozy. And if you’re going to use wine for that toast, make it French wine.