Tuesday, April 20, 2004

French eye for the stiff guy!

John Kerry gets in touch with his inner FrenchLast Friday, Best of the Web pointed to this gem in the New Yorker:
Alain de Chalvron, the Washington bureau chief for France 2, the French equivalent of the BBC, hasn’t had an easy time since he came to America, last fall. ... So when John Kerry became the front-runner for the Democratic Presidential nomination de Chalvron and other French journalists in Washington were understandably excited. They knew about Kerry: he went to a Swiss boarding school, he has a cousin who ran for the French Presidency, and he supposedly wooed Teresa Heinz by impressing her with his fluent French.

For a time, Kerry seemed equally enthusiastic about the French reporters covering his campaign. “He was quite accessible in Iowa and New Hampshire,” de Chalvron said the other day, in his office in Washington. “He understands French very well. His words are correct and sometimes even sophisticated. I asked him, ‘How can you have this life? It must be terrible, crisscrossing the country.’ Kerry answered, ‘C’est affreux’—‘It’s awful.’” De Chalvron’s voice rose with admiration. “Affreux, it’s not a very usual word. It’s something a French person can use easily, but Kerry could have said, ‘Yes, it’s terrible,’ instead of going to pick a more difficult word.”
Woohoo, he must be one of them sophisticated fellers! But here's the bad news:
Everything changed, though, when, in recent months, Republicans started intimating that Kerry was too Continental.
Suddenly, Kerry appeared to develop linguistic amnesia. “During a press conference, I asked Kerry a question, on Iraq,” de Chalvron recalled. “He didn’t answer. In front of the American journalists, he didn’t want to take a question that was not in English.” Loïck Berrou, the United States bureau chief for de Chalvron’s competitor, TF1, has been having similar problems. Berrou chatted in French with Kerry on a commercial flight last year; the Senator reminisced about his family’s country house in Saint-Briac-sur-Mer, a village in Brittany, where Kerry’s cousin is the mayor. “We’ve pushed hard to get an interview with him, and no answer,” Berrou says.
The English-only rule doesn’t seem to hold when Kerry is speaking off the record. On his campaign plane recently, he carried on a lively conversation with de Chalvron in French. The other day, in his office, de Chalvron showed footage of Kerry bringing hot towels to foreign journalists in the back of the plane and bantering with Parisian reporters about his chances. De Chalvron was perplexed. “For us, to speak any other language and have an open view of the world, for a President, should be a plus,” he said.
Fer sure, Alain! I think it would really, really help if you gave ole Lurch a French makeover! The home folks could really get into that. As you can see from the snap, Sacred Cow Burgers already has made a start on it!

And Alain, you really ought to show the Towel Boy video around - it'll be hot!