John Kerry recently dropped a French faux pas. Even as he disrespected our greatest ally, Great Britain, he contrived to praise the French.
In justifying swift retribution against Syria, Kerry referred to the French as "our oldest ally," and snubbed the British, not even including them in a long list of countries that had condemned Syria's use of chemical weapons.
Only two days later, Kerry did mental contortions that even the cunning French would've admired. Kerry was the waffling head on the Sunday talk show circuit, proclaiming that democratic procedures should prevail as Congress debates military action against Syria.
The British had promptly convened "The mother of all parliaments" for vibrant discourse under public scrutiny. Now Kerry, despite his diplomatic slight, proposed that Congress should do the same. Of course, this was politically expedient -- the main intervening event was Obama's call to Congress to authorize military action against Syria.
Suddenly, Kerry was against a swift strike against Syria, shortly after having been for it. Sound familiar? Actually, I'm not shocked by Kerry's French-like vacillation, his flip-flops are legion.
In 2004, a Bush presidential campaign aide mocked Kerry, saying the then-senator "looks French." Discouragingly, he also thinks like the French, and his deportment is rather supercilious.
France is our oldest ally? Maybe, but remember that the American colonists repeatedly fought the French in the French and Indian wars. Has monsieur Kerry considered that many of the revolutionaries were actually British? Does he know that Thomas Paine, the influential pamphleteer who incited revolutionary fervor, concluded his landmark essay, Common Sense, with the words "signed by an Englishman"?
But let's concede that France is an old ally; they are equally fragile, and about as wishy-washy as Kerry himself. Is it any wonder that Kerry would feel comfortable under the cloak of French hubris?
After surrendering in the last global war, France set up a Nazi puppet government in the original Vichy. Vichy has come to represent more than a location in France -- it's a metaphor for pitiful and dastardly collaboration with the enemy.
De Gaulle, Mitterrand, Chirac, Sarkozy... there's a long procession of haughty French heads that gleefully undermined U.S. policies.
Chirac worked overtime to earn the moniker "Le Worm" for his double-dealing; he fervently sought to embarrass the United States in the U.N and elsewhere.
Sarkozy, with Hungarian roots, was not as blatant in undermining U.S. interests. Nevertheless, he was assimilated in France, and suffused with obstinacy and self-importance that belies their increasing irrelevance.
Dubbed "Sarko the American" for his once pro-American stance, even he soon regressed to French form when he petulantly threatened to walk out of the G20 summit in London in 2009 if he didn't get his way. He also decried so-called "Cowboy Capitalism," and said laissez-faire is finished.
I'm sure Kerry, a champion of regulation, would echo that sentiment, so I'm not shocked he relishes French precepts under the pompous guise of sophistication.
The French have proven themselves to be irresolute allies over the years, including denying us use of their airspace for military operations. Kerry is also adroit at wavering: he was for the Iraq war before he took the French position against it. Troublingly, he was also for Syria's Assad before being against Assad.
I'm not shocked that the rude Kerry is a purported Francophile, though the term does seem oxymoronic. Even many French aren't Francophiles, but are trying to rid themselves of French-ness.
French rudeness is the stuff of legend, but maybe these people Kerry call allies are nicer once they leave France. Actually, according to a survey of 4,000 hotel employees commissioned by French travel website Expedia.fr, the French are the most obnoxious tourists among Europeans. C'est la vie.
French laziness doesn't ally well with our American work ethic, either. Short work weeks and up to two months of paid vacation is superficially alluring, but economists concede their system in unsustainable. No wonder titans of American industry have mocked French work ethic.
I agree Kerry looks French; he sure acts French. He is a big-government liberal who intercedes in the marketplace, so he'd probably favor France's recently introduced tax on smart phones. France is such an economic basket case that economists predict even the U.K. will soon leave them in the dust.
In a poll conducted for Le Parisien newspaper, an astonishing 45% of French people said they support the practice whereby workers lock up their bosses to demand better layoff terms.
Once you get past your initial amusement, you realize this "boss napping" is a bit anti-capitalist, and doesn't comport with a great ally. In fact, Lenin himself would rejoice in this form of "dictatorship of the proletariat."
Maybe Kerry is a Francophile because they are flexible and self-assured; always willing to enhance their society by assimilating diverse cultures. Nope, that's also misguided. French cultural snobbery leads to bans on many rich customs not rooted in Gallic history, but when they messed with Ronald McDonald -- my favorite ally -- that was like a declaration of war.
Vandalizing McDonald's restaurants because they debase French cuisine was simply not nice. But hanging a replica of my Ronald McDonald from a bridge was an affront to American sensibilities, not the behavior of friends. France may be an old ally, but the "cheese-eating surrender monkeys" are decrepit.
As for our most resolute ally -- at least ever since they ransacked and burned the White House in 1812 -- Great Britain may keep Kerry's snub in context by pondering this morsel from Henry James: "I don't want everyone to like me; I should think less of myself if some people did."