All Fraternité for Sarkozy At a Cozy White House Fete

French President Nicolas Sarkozy, center, kisses the hand of first lady Laura Bush as he is greeted by President Bush.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy, center, kisses the hand of first lady Laura Bush as he is greeted by President Bush. (Photos By Evan Vucci -- Associated Press)

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By Hank Stuever
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, November 7, 2007

America, Facebook has sent you a confirmation request, and it's from France: How do you "know" Nicolas Sarkozy?

Well, we don't know him know him, and anyhow, the French president friended us first.

And friends are still in short supply, as are dullish White House parties in honor of them.

Last night's not-a-state-dinner dinner in the State Dining Room (got that?) for 130 or so guests was billed as an opportunity to gently fete "Sarko the American," the still-newish, hyperactive leader who seems, so far, to enjoy repeat visits to the States. He likes our big movies. He likes our 53-hour workweeks.

The story line to Sarkozy's visit asks if France and America can rekindle a little of the old magic. The answer appeared to be oui-- even with our attempts to bore him to death with an after-dinner reenactment of Gen. George Washington's historic meeting with the Marquis de Lafayette.

The freshly divorced Sarkozy arrived (solo, ladies!) at the North Portico at 7 p.m. in a limousine decorated with little French and American flags, and was warmly greeted by President and Laura Bush. Kisses, back-patting, etc.

Downstairs, the people on one of the most uninspired guest lists in White House dinner-party reporting history (we're the Style section, we should know), culled from Bush friends, Cabinet members, Americans with Frenchy names and Frenchies with even Frenchier names, made their entrances before a wan party press corps of a half-dozen so-called reporters and photographers. Everyone made lame stabs at freedom-fries-are-all-behind-us-now punch lines. The guests seemed glad to be able to officially like France again.

"The last time I went to France, I was at the cemetery for the 60th anniversary of the invasion of Normandy, and you could feel the [anti-American] tension then. I don't think I'll be feeling that tonight," said Aaron Broussard, president of Jefferson Parish, La., who has met with Bush several times since Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Broussard said he had "no clue" why he was on the night's guest list. ("You think it has something to do with my French heritage?") Broussard said he knows "not much" about Sarkozy, "but I'm looking forward to meeting him," and into the receiving line he and his wife, Karen, went.

Former Louisiana congressman Billy Tauzin, now CEO for PhRMA, the drug industry trade group, said he was "delighted to be here. It's good to have France back in the good graces of Americans," and not a moment too soon, he added, since his son is planning to get married next spring in a town near Paris.

"We had trouble loving France for a few years there," said Donald Hall Sr., chairman of the board of Hallmark Cards, who, with his wife, Adele, go way back with Bush pere.

Other guests on the list: Condi, Doro, Dick; Supreme Court Justice Stephen G. Breyer; in-laws-to-be John and Margaret Hager; Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.); the newly former New York Mets pitcher Tom Glavine; and corporate bigs from American Express, FedEx, the Las Vegas Sands Hotel chain, Public Storage and IBM.

Now, you ask: How was the dinner? What was it like?


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