It’s hard enough for any of us to stick to our principles at the best of times. Imagine how much harder it must be then for a politician, regardless of his or her political hue.
Of course it can help assuage guilt and shed a completely different light on your own decision when your partner holds opposing views and is able to exercise “independent’ actions over which you apparently have no control.
And as he beamed from the stands of the Olympic stadium in Beijing on Friday at the opening ceremony of the Games, similar thoughts could well have been passing through the mind of the French president, Nicolas Sarkozy.
You’ll perhaps remember that the poor man had problems deciding whether he should pitch up at all. Back in March he said he was “shocked” by China's security clampdown in Tibet and urged Beijing to re-open discussions with the exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama.
He then ummed and aahed for a couple of months, all the while not making it clear what he would do. Finally he ignored the decision of Germany’s Angela Merkel, who took the moral high road by refusing to attend, and said he would indeed show up. Which he did.
Sarkozy could have been forgiven for brimming with Gallic indignation a couple of days later though, when the Chinese ambassador to Paris, Kong Quan, told the French media that there would be "serious consequences" for Sino-Franco relations if he decided to meet the Dalai Lama personally during the exiled spiritual leader’s visit to France in August.
Instead Sarkozy remained quiet – seemingly a recently-discovered tactic in his diplomatic armoury, although it could also be interpreted as simply being “vague.”
Quiet that is just before his “appearance” at the opening ceremony, when his office at the Elysée palace released an official statement that showed once again he is a master of wheedling himself out of a conundrum
The solution to the dilemma? Twofold. First a carefully worded announcement from the Elysée palace that Sarkozy wouldn’t be meeting the Dalai Lama, while making it look as though it was the latter’s decision but cleverly not expounding on the reason.
And then phase two and the real answer to his dreams: Enter stage Left, politically and socially in the form of none other than France’s first lady, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy.
For it is she and not he, who will be present as the Dalai Lama opens a Buddhist temple in southern France on August 22.
A cave in from Sarkozy, a jiggling of the first lady’s calendar or some deft diplomatic footwork that appears to keep all sides happy and prevents any loss of face?
Whatever the case may be, it sure hasn’t done Sarkozy any harm having Carla at the Elysée palace.
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