Nicholas Sarkozy is making bizarre claims that "Anglo-Saxon financiers" are spreading rumors about his infidelity to destroy France, but the really unusual thing about the scandal is Carla Bruni's role in it.
For those of you not following the junior-high-style gossip mill currently churning around Sarkozy and Bruni, the two were rumored to be involved in his-and-hers affairs, he with ecology minister Chantal Jouanno and she with musician Benjamin Biolay. They've denied the rumors, with Sarkozy's camp blaming first former Finance Minister Rachida Dati, and then a shadowy group of financiers who supposedly want to ruin the French economy. No matter who started the rumors, what's interesting about them is that they targeted Bruni equally, and that she has responded in a way that would surely get an American political wife a visit from the spin police.
Rumors apparently alleged that Bruni cheated first, and that Sarkozy's affair was "retaliatory." This wouldn't be especially shocking if true — in an interview before her marriage, Bruni said, "Monogamy bores me terribly." Though Bruni recently told an interviewer, ''The real fairytale is how lucky, how incredibly lucky it was for me to fall in love at 40 years old and meeting someone I could marry,'' she also said, ''I guess marriage should be for ever but who knows what happens? I wish it was for ever, that's my hope … but we could be dead tomorrow.''
Could a political wife in America, trying to quash infidelity rumors, have gotten away with such an equivocal statement? Can you imagine, say, Jenny Sanford saying such a thing? Of course, Mark Sanford's dalliance was oh-so-substantiated, while neither Sarkozy's nor Bruni's have been. But the fact remains that, as Rebecca Dana of The Daily Beast points out, many Americans have "come to expect an up-or-down verdict on high-profile marriages mere moments after a cheating scandal first comes to light." There's little room for shades of gray, and the cheated-on woman is usually cast as a victim who must have an immediate and decisive reaction. Rarely do we hear of the wives of powerful men cheating themselves (New York Governor David Paterson's wife is one exception), and almost never do we hear anyone admit that monogamy isn't for them.
This isn't to say I wish Jenny Sanford, or Elin Nordegren, or Sandra Bullock had cheated on their husbands, or that I think anyone who wants a monogamous relationship should accept anything else. Rather, I imagine there must be powerful couples in America who share Bruni's views on marriage but must maintain the illusion of monogamy to pacify the public. As commenter Edna_Sednitzer pointed out, Monique through the media into a tizzy when she commented that it wouldn't be the end of the world if her husband slept with someone else, and it seems that despite rampant straying, the only publicly acceptable relationship in either Hollywood or Washington is a sexually monogamous one. Of course, as the British press hastens to tell us, the rules have always been different in France, but with his weird accusations about financiers, Sarkozy is starting to sound like an American. Whereas Bruni seems to do and speak as she pleases — which, especially from a politician's wife, is refreshing.
Sarkozy Blames 'Anglo-Saxon Financiers' For Spreading Rumours About His Marriage As Dati Protests Her Innocence [Daily Mail]
Reporter Heads Roll After Bruni Affair Stories [Newser]
The Elin Strategy [The Daily Beast]