Up until today, the Socialist presidential candidate Ségolène Royal had a dynamic and outspoken spokesman, 44-year-old Arnaud Montebourg. Unfortunately, last night on television, he cracked a trivial joke. An interviewer asked him if Ségolène, in her presidential campaign, was bogged down by any handicap. Montebourg replied spontaneously, with a grin: "Ségolène Royal has a sole weakness: her partner." Now, this kind of a joke didn't go down well with the boss. During the night, Montebourg realized that he had committed an idiotic faux pas, of the kind that cannot be tolerated in the context of such a saintly female as Ségolène. At dawn, he submitted his resignation, while explaining that his words were intended as a pure joke. Acting magnanimously in the style of a soccer referee who wants the game to go on calmly, in a dignified manner, Ségolène told her spokesman that his remarks were "out of place", and she suspended him for a month. For a political party whose emblem is the red rose, you might call that, in soccer terms, a pink card.
It takes a lot of imagination for French observers to figure out the possible consequences of this novel situation in which the female candidate is in fact, in everyday life, the partner of the chief of France's Socialist party, François Hollande. Everybody in France knows that Bernadette Chirac, the wife of the French president, has devoted a lot of energy over the last decade, in liaison with the judo champion David Douillet, to a huge charitable operation that consists of collecting small coins (referred to as "yellow pieces" in French) to benefit hospitalized children in France. A wag suggested that, if ever Ségolène were to replace Chirac, then François Hollande might take over this charitable work of Bernadette.
The husbands of female chiefs of state are a fascinating subject. We've become accustomed to the chap named Philip Mountbatten who has been walking along unobtrusively in the wake of Elizabeth II for the last half a century. Then there was the delightful case of the likable hubby named Denis Thatcher who had been courageous enough to marry the future Iron Lady.
If ever the Democratic senator Hillary Rodham Clinton is elected as the future president of the USA (an idea that pleases me greatly), it will be interesting to see whether she decides to hire her husband for some kind of White House job. On the other hand, it's understandable that Hillary might not like the idea of putting Bill in a situation where he could be tempted to prowl around once again among the female office staff.