France has been cooing along with everyone else over the arrival of Bo Obama at the White House, but the master of America's new First Dog is no longer in good odour with President Sarkozy.
Mr Sarkozy is pouring cold water on President Obama's efforts to recast American leadership on the world stage, depicting them as unoriginal, unsubstantial and overrated. Behind leaks and briefings from the Elysée Palace lies Mr Sarkozy's irritation at the rock-star welcome that Europe gave Mr Obama on his Europan tour earlier this month.
The American President's call "to free the world of the menace of a nuclear nightmare" was hot air, Mr Sarkozy's diplomatic staff told him in a report. "It was rhetoric – not a speech on American security policy but an export model aimed at improving the image of the United States," they said. Most of Mr Obama's proposals had already been made by the Bush administration and Washington was dragging its feet on disarmament and treaties against nuclear proliferation, the leaked report said.
Personal pique and French politics are also behind the souring of Mr Sarkozy's self-promoted honeymoon with the United States. On the personal side, the French President is needled by the adulation for an unproven US leader whose stardom has eclipsed what he sees as his established record as a world troubleshooter. "The President is annoyed by what he sees as the naivety and the herd mentality of the media," said a journalist who is privy to Elysée thinking.
Mr Sarkozy has put out a version of the proceedings at the London G20 economic summit which casts him as hero, in the classic French role of intransigent defender of principle in the face of the American steamroller. This is to counter last week's reports of Mr Obama saving the day by persuading President Hu of China to accept Mr Sarkozy's demands for naming tax havens.
According to the leaks, Mr Sarkozy shamed Mr Obama into intervening: "You were elected to build a new world. Tax havens are the embodiment of the old world," he is quoted as saying. He also reprimanded Mr Obama for setting US goals for climate change that were inferior to Europe's, according to his staff.
Again, according to the Sarkozy version, at the Nato summit in Strasbourg, Mr Obama was meekly yielding to Turkey's refusal to endorse Anders Fogh Rasmussen as the alliance's new Secretary-General. It took pressure from Mr Sarkozy and Chancellor Merkel of Germany to stiffen him up and change his mind, say the French.
Mr Obama's favour for Ankara has irked but also helped Mr Sarkozy as his Union for a Popular Movement campaigns for European Parliament elections in June. Mr Sarkozy slapped down the US President on French TV after he publicly called for Turkish entry to the European Union.
Permanent refusal of Turkish membership is one of Mr Sarkozy's policy planks and one of his most popular with voters. Mr Obama's venture into EU affairs has enabled Mr Sarkozy to make political capital. He has shown that France can still stand up to the United States despite rejoining the Nato command last week.
It sounded like old Franco-American business as usual this morning when Bruno Le Maire, Mr Sarkozy's Europe Minister, accused Washington of backing the northern and eastern EU members by wanting to turn the union into a mere free-trade zone. France and Germany are sticking to their vision of the "political" Europe that others do not want, he said.
Behind the policy argument, it is easy to detect disappointment over Mr Obama's failure to respond to the Sarkozy charm offensive that began when he befriended the junior senator on a visit to Washington in 2006. Mr Obama showered compliments on France's "hyper-president" in Strasbourg, but the one that has stuck was double-edged: "He is courageous on so many fronts, it's sometimes hard to keep up with him."
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