- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 15, 2003

Not much ooh-la-la out there, and very few bon mots.
There are a lot of weasels, though, some monkeys, a rat and one poodle.
The French are not doing well in the American press.
The New York Post cover featured a doctored color photo yesterday, depicting French and German delegates to the United Nations as a pair of weasels in fancy suits.
"Weasels to hear new Iraq evidence," the Post proclaimed. The paper also suggested that an ostrich was "the national bird of France" and earlier coined the term "axis of weasels."
That phrase suffered in translation in the French press, translated as "axe des faux jetons," which means "axis of devious characters."
Weasel, in the meantime, is the current word of choice to describe European allies who undermine U.S. determination to disarm Iraq "weasel unilateralism," as the Wall Street Journal put it yesterday.
Weasel has gotten as much play in the past 48 hours as "duct tape," and journalists haven't had this much fun since "Osama Yo' Mama"-style headlines surfaced after the September 11 terrorist attacks.
There have been some serious side effects, however.
Rep. H. James Saxton, New Jersey Republican, has drafted a resolution that calls for a U.S. boycott of the Paris Air Show this spring. House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, Illinois Republican, has called for a boycott of French wine and bottled water.
A growing Yankee boycott of French cheeses is evidence of the "fast-ripening stink over Iraq currently souring Franco-U.S. relations," according to one British account.
Things are getting downright inventive in the press, meanwhile.
"Cheese-eating surrender monkeys," a phrase borrowed from "The Simpsons" cartoon show, recently surfaced in the National Review magazine and has been echoed in the global media for days. The French and Germans have been called "an alliance of wimps," while Belgium rated the title "mini-me minion."
John Gibson of Fox News Channel theorized that the Belgians had joined in with France and Germany because their army "was too old and too fat to fight anybody." In the Wall Street Journal, French President Jacques Chirac was called "the rat that tried to roar," while The Washington Post used the term "oily" to describe French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin.
"Next time the French need their chestnuts pulled from the fire, it either will or will not be in our interest to do it. If not: Hard cheese, Jacques," Human Events, a conservative newsweekly, stated yesterday, suggesting France change its tri-colored flag removing the red and blue, but leaving the white.
The foreign press, of course, has increased its anti-American invective, bandying about terms such as "bullies" and "cowboys." One British tabloid published its own trick photo yesterday, depicting President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair on the verge of a kiss.
The American media has also come under fire, accused of being a White House lapdog that likes "its tummy tickled." The National Journal rebuffed the charge yesterday with a column titled "The Poodle Speaks."
The Paris media have reported on the anti-French vitriol emanating through the American and British press with an air of bemused incomprehension.
"The French don't have a very good press in the United States these days," the left-wing daily Liberation wrote Monday.
The conservative daily Le Figaro echoed pride in France's long tradition of Cartesian logic when it praised Mr. Villepin's plan for reinforced arms inspections in Iraq.
"Even if it worsens French-American relations, the attempt is in any event quite logical," the paper said.
Pascal Boniface, a leading French world-affairs analyst, said Americans suffered from a Francophobia as bad as the anti-Americanism that's politically correct in France.
"I was in the United States last week and couldn't turn on the television without hearing nonsense about France," he said.
But there is some method to the madness in the American and French media, said Robert Steele of the Florida-based Poynter Institute, a press-watchdog group.
"C'est la vie," Mr. Steele said yesterday. "Journalists use sharp satire as entrees into very serious subjects. Humor can engage readers. But caricature should have some purpose."
The press should retain some thoughtfulness and civility after chuckles cease, he said.
"I don't say there's no place for humor," Mr. Steele said. "But eventually, laughs don't make us any smarter on topics as serious as terrorism and war."
This article is based in part on wire service reports

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