Vol. 2, Issue 36, October 26, 2004
Bush Camp Unnerved by France's Declaration of Support
With only a week left before the election, political analysts were scrambling to explain the sudden unexpected endorsement of President Bush by France.
"It is of course not normally our policy to interfere in another country's elections," said President Jacques Chirac. "But we cannot restrain ourselves anymore: I simply must announce how very much the people of France want President Bush to serve another term."
The announcement is especially puzzling because France has been at odds with the Bush administration for years, opposing American intervention in Iraq and generally criticizing Bush's foreign policy as unilateral and shortsighted. In fact, a Marshall Fund poll of Europeans in nine nations found that 76 percent disapproved of Bush's handling of world affairs.
The White House, in turn, has long been critical of Europe's failure to support American military efforts in Iraq, and of France's opposition in particular.
"Contempt for the French is so strong that they are serving 'freedom fries' in the Capitol for crying out loud," said political analyst Greg Lund. "For most conservatives, anything French is cultural anathema. This is a regular guy, meat-and-potatoes kind of presidency. France, to the limited perceptions of many Americans, stands for obstinacy, cowardice, and snobbery. Can you picture George Bush enjoying some camembert and foie gras on toast points? I can't."
Given this public perception, the Bush campaign was frantically trying to play down Chirac's announcement, which has been aired on national television every hour at the expense of the French government.
"George Bush embodies everything a Frenchman should be," said Chirac, apparently struggling to keep a straight face. "His sophistication, his cultured manner, his gallantry, his military record: truly, Mister President, if France could put a candidate in an American office, surely it would be you."
If the French intended to help the president's re-election campaign, however, the effort has backfired; since the announcement, Bush's numbers have fallen precipitously across the country, particularly in his home territory of Texas.
"Gee," frowned Mabel Stokes, a registered Republican from Houston. "I always figured Dubya to be a man of his word. But if the French are saying they approve of his military record, it makes you wonder if those stories about him being AWOL were true after all."
Some analysts have been wondering, in fact, if France is not playing a high-stakes game of reverse psychology in an effort to alienate Bush's core supporters.
"Mon dieu," muttered Chirac following the press conference as he took a very large drink of brandy. "This had better work."