WikiLeaks Revelation: How Sarkozy Became “American”

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French President Nicolas Sarkozy

Remy de la Mauviniere/AP

Here’s another suspicion WikiLeaks has helped confirm: French President Nicolas Sarkozy was the source of his “Sarko l’Américain” nickname, and was so proud of it that he took pains to spread it around among U.S. diplomats. To quote the inimitable Eric Cartman: “Weak.”

The information is contained in an August 4, 2005 cable sent by then-U.S. Ambassador to France, Craig R. Stapleton, following his meeting three days earlier with Sarkozy— who was a very popular Interior Minister at the time. The cable details Sarkozy’s pro-American foreign policy positions, admiration for then-U.S. President George W. Bush, and regrets over the Franco-American rift caused by the Iraq war. Stapleton also quotes Sarkozy describing how his own identification with American values and society had supposedly become part and parcel of his own reputation in France. “They call me ‘Sarkozy the American,'” he is quoted as saying—though without actually identifying who “they” were. “They consider it an insult, but I take it as a compliment.”

(See photos of Sarkozy’s trip to the U.S.)

And a self-bestowed one at that. The nickname “Sarko l’Américain” didn’t come into wide use by French and foreign media until after his election to the Elysée in 2007, when he went out of his way to reach out to an increasingly isolated Bush and mend fences with the U.S. A thorough web search from 2000 to 2005 indicates the nickname was rarely heard before then–and was virtually always sourced back to Sarkozy himself in the few reports to cite it.

(See more on Sarkozy’s plans to reform the G20.)

So why the desire to be known as France’s leading Yankophile? Doubtless because Sarkozy wanted the Americans to view him as a valued ally and partner, especially given the other bit of information Sarkozy slipped his visitors: his intention to run for president that he only let French voters in on 16 months later.