America Horrified, Titillated By French View of Sex, Marriage
Posted on February 11, 2014When you enter into the House Chamber from the center aisle (like the President does when he walks in to give his State of the Union Address), behind you, near the ceiling is Moses in bas-relief, to the left of the Speaker’s Chair is an enormous painting of George Washington, and to the right is another enormous painting of the Marquis de Lafayette.
For those amateur historians who love to wave around their dog-eared copies of the Constitution but at the same time bitch about the French, that tribute to one of America’s oldest allies should serve as a stark reminder.
We owe a debt to France for helping us at our very beginnings, just as they owe us for bailing them out of World Wars I and II.
Like many old friendships, the relationship between America and France is complicated. Sometimes we love each other. Sometimes, not so much.
American vs. French View of Sex and Marriage
We tend to be horrified (and secretly titillated) by the French view of sex and marriage. We are much more Puritan in our approach to most things sexual (or at least we used to be) especially by the sexual adventures of our politicians.
When Bill Clinton was messing around with a young intern ( a story that never seems to go away, despite the best wishes of his wife), the French were more than blasé about the whole thing. They were appalled by our hypocrisy.
When Nicolas Sarkozy brought his beautiful bride to America, she was the object of intense fascination. When a picture of the former President of France and the current President of the United States both checking out the posterior of a young lady who walked between them hit the Internet, it was a further example the French leading the Americans down a dangerously seductive path.
Mais d’accord, there is a long history of that in America. Benjamin Franklin supposedly had a wild time in Paris when he was our Ambassador, trying to get the Frenchies to join our side in the Revolution. When it was Thomas Jefferson’s turn to travel to Paris, he fell in love with Maria Cosgrove, a married woman. He also commenced a relationship with Sally Hemmings while in France.
How many hundreds of thousands of American troops did the same thing when went “Over There” in the First World War and then the Second World War? France has always been a place for romantic adventure for Americans. And France continue to fascinate.
President François Hollande
And so it is with the current President, François Hollande. The Socialist who promised to govern like Bill DeBlasio, is more famous in America for riding his scooter to visit an actress with which he had (or is having) a sexual relationship. This young lady was not his wife (well, ex-wife now). Nor was it his Mistress (or ex-Mistress now).
François Hollande is no Cary Grant or Brad Pitt. But as Henry Kissinger pointed out, power is an aphrodisiac. The question remains what kind of power does Mr. Hollande have?
The French economy can best be described as sluggish. The French are steadily losing their influence in Europe to the Germans. Their growth rate is almost non-existent. Hollande's plan to tax rich people at a rate of 75% was declared unconstitutional by the French Supreme Court, mostly because it was such a stupid idea.
Hollande is looking to Obama for economic growth ideas, which shows just how desperate he really is. Like Obama, the French President is down in the polls and his political party is in trouble in the coming elections. And like Obama, Hollande faces a rebellion not only from his traditional opposition, but from the French version of the Tea Party, led by Marie Pen.
It is somewhat surprising that Monsieur Hollande was not invited to give an address to a joint session of Congress (which usually coincides with a State Dinner) but my guess is that the House, which is adjourning tomorrow for the President’s Day recess and still has to pass an extension of the debt limit), didn’t have much time in the week to dedicate to listen to a long, long speech.
So, instead, the President of the United States and the President of France are retreating to Monticello, where some of Mr. Jefferson’s vineyards still produce wine from grape vines that were first imported from somewhere in Bordeaux (or was it Burgundy?).
In any event, the media will focus its attention at this state visit, not on the fact that the visit is an important reaffirmation of an important strategic friendship. Instead it will focus on Mr. Hollande’s sex life. Because, let’s face it. It’s a lot more interesting than yours.