- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 9, 2014

When French President Francois Hollande arrives in the nation’s capital for a three-day state visit on Monday, he’s bringing much baggage, but not of the suitcase variety. He travels alone; Mr. Hollande is first lady-less, having spurned his longtime gal pal by dallying with a beautiful actress while leaving the unmarried mother of his four children at home as well. Lots to do, though: Mr. Hollande will visit the historic Monticello in Virginia on Monday with President Obama. Though it’s 117 miles from the White House, they’re taking Air Force One. Come Tuesday, Mr. Hollande attends a big, fat state dinner with 300 of his closest friends, then boards Air Force One once again with Mr. Obama the next morning, headed to California for a grande finale in Silicon Valley.

The socialist president has not been invited to address a joint session of Congress. Some critics blame House Speaker John A. Boehner for the slight. And while Mr. Hollande is here to talk up economic ties with the U.S., his various amours appear to make more compelling reading.

“Will Hollande make American women swoon?” asks Bloomberg contributor James Atlas, who points out that in France, the public is concerned more about image than moral center.

“The main criticism of Hollande isn’t that his conduct is immoral, but that it’s undignified,” Mr. Atlas says, noting that the French president’s lousy approval ratings at home actually rose once news of his romantic entanglements went public.

“On his trip to Washington, everyone will want a glimpse of this man whom women love, who disregards social norms and does what he wants. He’s kind of a jerk. So what? Most of us are,” Mr. Atlas says, adding that this constitutes “normal” behavior in France.

Word has leaked out that California wines and New Orleans cuisine will be served during a State Department luncheon for Mr. Hollande, though such details for the White House dinner have yet to be released. But officials added a signature frisson of public spectacle to Mr. Hollande’s visit.

“Join us for a White House Social French Arrival Ceremony,” reads the open White House invitation to Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Instagram and Tumblr users, who vied for a chance to stand on the South Lawn when Mr. Hollande’s helicopter touches down. Yes, well. Should there be any swooning, the press, no doubt will be there.


Headlines of the aforementioned meeting between Presidents Obama and Hollande have not topped the old New York Post declaration that the French were part of an “Axis of Weasels” following the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Here’s what’s out there: “Why Obama loves France” (Politico); “French break-up makes a dinner harder to do” (The New York Times); “A state visit gives France’s president a chance to improve his country’s image” (The Economist); “Why the French president needs Michelle Obama” (CNN) and “White House destroys Hollande state dinner invitations” (The Daily Telegraph).

The Telegraph explains: “The White House has discreetly destroyed hundreds of embossed invitations to a state dinner honoring Franois Hollande because they included a reference to his now former partner.”


“The level of security is quite appropriate. It’s very good.”

Janet Napolitano, former secretary of homeland security and head of the U.S. delegation to the Winter Olympic games, to CNN.

“I’ve never seen a greater threat in my lifetime . I think there’s a high degree of probability that something will detonate.”

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