The fact that Sarkozy came before the US Congress and stated, “I want to be your friend,” and that he brought France back into the integrated command of NATO, gave him a pass with the American political class that could not be touched.
This had come after decades of reservation and distrust (interspersed with moments of solidarity, it is true) among the two “oldest allies”: from Charles de Gaulle’s revenge for his rejection by Franklin Roosevelt during World War II; to François Mitterrand’s reserve about American capitalism; to Jacques Chirac’s breaking ranks over George W. Bush’s preventive war against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.
Is this “era of good feeling” between France and the United States now going to end? No. François Hollande is a very centrist leftist, a social democrat, and not a Marxist. A graduate of France’s elite schools (of which Sarkozy, trained as a lawyer, is not) Hollande has, I suspect, a formidable capacity to adapt and compromise.
The moment is a bit like that when the last Socialist president, Mr. Mitterrand, took power in 1981(and the mimicry practiced by Hollande with regard to his illustrious predecessor has been widely noticed). At the outset of his presidency, Mitterrand wanted to reassure the US, and he sent emissaries to Washington to do just that.