in France the new first girlfriend
Valerie Terweiller, well renowned journalist, twice divorced mother and long-time girlfriend of Socialist François Hollande - newly elected French President, has put diplomatic circles in a conundrum.
Skip reading the rest if this kind of arcane diplomatic conundrums interest you not.
But the US Secret Service and the French Secret Service are asking questions about Hollande's US visit to Chicago next week and the protocols involved and of protecting Valerie...
So how will Michelle Obama greet a sort of First Lady of France?
These thorny issues were raised by my friend who's got to help answer these questions.
Arnaud, formerly with the Brigade Criminelle in Paris, now stationed at the French Embassy in DC told us about it last night at dinner. He was here visiting and over fajita's and pale ale - he loved it - he spoke about his trip to Chicago for pre-security detail for Hollande's visit. Seems Arnaud's position is to be the laision with the Secret Service from both countries and to make sure everyone plays nice. Stays protected. And protocol is adhered to.
Arnaud threw up his arms. "But what protocol, they asked me. What do we do?"
"What about the taxpayers who foot the bill?" I asked.
He shrugged. "Good question. In France Hollande's personal life is personal, respected." Arnaud drank more ale. "But we'll have to face this question soon, rural and middle France tends to be more traditional and conservative. Like your country. A girlfriend, alors, they can split up anytime. Marriage that's an institution. She says she wants independence, to do her own thing, yet is she's living at the Elysee Palace we're paying the electricity, you know."
First Ladies have duties, their own causes, a role to play, whether symbolic as in the past or more proactive. At large, long state dinners I imagine they could run interference or take the heat off the President for a minute. Not that I'm an expert on this. Sarkozy's wife Carla, a former supermodel had a reputation for partying with rock stars and now Valerie will become the first unmarried ‘Première Dame’ in history to enter the Elysee Palace on the arm of the country's most powerful man.
Valerie, a magazine journalist was revealed as Mr Hollande’s lover when he separated from the mother of his four children, the politician Segolene Royal, with whom he lived for 30 years.
She gained the nickname ‘Rottweiler’ after she slapped a colleague at Paris Match who said something she deemed sexist.
In the 70's Valery Giscard d'Estaing caused a storm since his family lived in the country and not with him at the Elysee. He only slept there during the week. Weekends he was off, whereabouts unknown. In essence unreachable if a catastrophe or attack on the country occurred. Francois Mitterand, the last Socialist president hated the Elysee, so did Chirac, and maintained a house on rue de Bièvre in the Latin Quarter. Mitterand also kept a residence with his mistress and their daughter on rue Mazarine an arrondissement over. This was public knowledge and Mitterand's wife, Danielle, a former Resistance member, respected Socialist, active against human rights violations as First Lady and throughout her life, attended all state functions. She invited Mitterand's mistress and daughter to the funeral.
I guess they'll figure it out the French way,
Cara - Tuesday