- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 15, 2010


“Nobody is happy to leave this country.”

Those were the words of a Frenchman preparing to say farewell to the United States. They could have been the words of Alexis de Toqueville, the great 19th-century French statesman who traveled widely in the young United States of the 1830s and wrote admiringly of its fledgling democracy.

However, those words were spoken by a 21st French diplomat, Emmanuel Napoleon Jean Lenain, who, like de Toqueville, traveled the highways and byways of America every chance he got during three years as the press spokesman at the French Embassy in Washington.

Unlike many foreign diplomats who drive imports, Mr. Lenain proudly cruised in an American classic, a 1969 Chevy Camaro.

In the fall, Mr. Lenain will depart Washington for his new assignment as consul-general in Shanghai; but he already has started his farewell parties.

At a reception last week at the elegant residence of French Ambassador Pierre Vimont, Mr. Lenain referred to a quip by President John F. Kennedy, who famously said that Washington is a town of “Southern efficiency and Northern charm.”

“I don’t agree with that,” said Mr. Lenain, who just finished a summer tour of the South, where his stops included Memphis, Tenn., the home of Southern blues and barbecue, and Oxford, Miss., the home of the renowned Southern writer, William Faulkner.

Mr. Lenain noted that among his favorite adventures in America were his trips to the Democratic and Republican presidential conventions in 2008. He was amazed at the pageantry of the Democratic convention in Denver and pleased to meet some of “my personal idols like Henry Kissinger” at the Republican convention in St. Paul, Minn.

“When I first arrived here, I knew nothing about the press,” Mr. Lenain said of his duty as embassy spokesman. “Like any good diplomat, I tried to avoid journalists.”

Mr. Vimont recalled that Mr. Lenain spent three years at the French mission to the United Nations before coming to Washington.

“We all know that New York is not America. It is something different,” the ambassador said. “We can say that this is your first American adventure.”

“You did a tremendous job,” he added.

Mr. Vimont had one question for Mr. Lenain.

“What are you going to do with your car?”

If the great Broadway song-and-dance man, George M. Cohan, was a “Yankee Doodle boy,” Mr. Lenain is a rare Frenchman - a Yankee Doodle beau.


The U.S. Embassy in Kenya says members of Parliament are “lying” about the role Ambassador Michael Ranneberger is playing in the contentious campaign over a new constitution for the East African nation that is frequently gripped with electoral violence.

Lawmakers opposed to the proposed constitution this week accused Mr. Ranneberger of campaigning for its adoption in an Aug. 4 referendum and bribing officials to get their support.

“Those claims are categorically false, and those making such allegations are lying,” the embassy said in a strongly written statement released Monday.

“The U.S. government is supporting the constitutional review process as the centerpiece of the broad reform agenda agreed to following the post-election crisis,” the statement added, referring to widespread rioting that killed up to 1,200 people after the 2007 presidential vote.

William Ruto, the minister for higher education, was most outspoken about U.S. support for the constitution, which opponents fear will legalize homosexuality and abortions.

“It is now obvious that what Mr. Ranneberger is doing is openly bribing voters,” he said Wednesday.

  • Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297 or e-mail jmorrison@washingtontimes.com.

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