Sarko the American

“My values are yours, those of the republican right,” the young, energetic candidate said accepting his party’s presidential nomination.

He vowed to slash personal tax rates, cut corporate taxes, abolish most estate taxes and pursue pro-growth policies that reward hard work and entrepreneurial risk-taking. The free-market republicanism he envisioned, he said, “creates jobs, builds houses, lets workers earn a living, gives poor children a chance.”

On foreign policy, he was a blunt-speaking realist. “The idea of an Iran with nuclear weapons is unacceptable,” he said. He stunned a group of Arab ambassadors, The New York Times reported, by telling them “his foreign policy priority as president would be to forge a closer relationship with Israel.”

The people must never forget, he said elsewhere, that they are “heirs of 2,000 years of Christianity.”

Even though the outgoing president was a man of the candidate’s own party, he ran against that president’s big-government conservatism, declaring that his own election would mean a “break with the ideas, the habits and the behavior of the past.”

The son of an immigrant, he said he welcomed legal immigration, opposed illegal immigration and would reinvigorate efforts to assimilate immigrants already in the country.

“I passionately love the country I was born in,” he said. “I don’t accept people living in France without respecting and loving France. I don’t accept people moving to France without bothering to speak and write French. … If you live in France, then you respect the values and laws of the republic.”

Last Sunday, conservative Nicolas Sarkozy was elected president of France. Now, many American conservatives may wish they could find a candidate like him to run for president of this country.

This desire can only be fueled by the fact that Sarkozy defeated a Socialist Party nominee, Segolene Royal, who in many ways resembled Hillary Clinton. The resemblance was so obvious the Clinton campaign felt compelled to deny it — after Royal was defeated.

“Other than the fact that they are both women, they don’t have much in common,” said Clinton campaign spokesman Howard Wolfson.

Sure, Howard. Let’s see: Hillary Clinton rose to prominence on the coattails of her husband, former President Bill Clinton. Segolene Royal rose to prominence on the coattails of her “partner” (they are not married), Socialist Party Chairman Francois Hollande. Hillary Clinton has favored expanding the American nanny state with proposals such as universal health care. Segolene Royal has favored expanding the French nanny state with proposals such as universal employment for all citizens starting six months after they leave school.

When Hillary Clinton was running for the Senate in 1999, she went to the West Bank and kissed Suha Arafat, wife of then-Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, immediately after Mrs. Arafat gave a speech accusing Israel of using poison gas. Segolene Royal went to Lebanon last year and met with a Hezbollah member of parliament who, in her presence, likened Israel to Nazi Germany and denounced the “unlimited dementia of the American administration.” Afterward, Royal told the man she agreed “with a lot of things that you have said, notably your analysis of the United States.” (Later, she said his words likening Israelis to Nazis had not been translated for her.)

Sarkozy versus Royal was not a campaign of pale pastels. Sarkozy described it as a “debate between two ideas of the nation, two projects for society, two value systems, two concepts of politics.” The French apparently agreed. A remarkable 84 percent turned out to vote, giving Sarkozy a 53 percent victory.

And French voters could not have missed Sarkozy’s admiration for America or his American-style conservative policies. Sarkozy’s detractors even dubbed him “Sarko the American,” a nickname he embraced at some political risk. “My devotion to our relationship with America is well known and has earned me substantial criticism in France,” he said last year in a speech in Washington, D.C. “I’m not a coward. I’m proud of this friendship, and I proclaim it gladly.”

Could a Sarkozy-versus-Royal race be replicated next year here? As of now, it is unlikely. If there was one place Sarkozy, Royal and outgoing French President Jacques Chirac agreed, it was on the U.S. war in Iraq. They all opposed it. “I want to pay homage to Jacques Chirac, who honored France when he opposed the war in Iraq, which was a mistake,” Sarkozy said when he accepted his party’s nomination.

Iraq was not an issue in the French election. But if the war does not take a dramatic turn for the better in the coming year, it may be the all-consuming issue in the U.S. election — and that will not help the American party that shares Sarko’s basic vision of government.