Socialist loses temper in French presidential debate

Last night's televised debate between Nicolas Sarkozy and Ségolène Royal, held prior to Sunday's run-off election for President of France, may have produced a decisive moment, as the socialist Royal apparently lost her temper and was called on it by Sarkozy. The New York Times reports:

Toward the end of the debate, Ms. Royal became agitated during a discussion of educating disabled children. She argued that the right had undone the good work that the left had been trying to do, and cast Mr. Sarkozy's position as "the height of political immorality."

She accused him of playing the compassion card even though his government had not delivered needed services, indignantly telling him he had described the plight of handicapped children "with a tear in your eye."

Mr. Sarkozy grabbed the opportunity to bore in on his point that she could not lead France in such a temperamental fashion.

"Calm down," he told her.

"No, I will not calm down," she replied.

"Do not point at me with this finger, with this--" he said.

"No. Yes," she said.

"With this index finger pointed, because frankly--"

"No, I will not calm down," she said. "No, I will not calm down. I will not calm down."

"To be president of the republic, you have to be calm," he said.

She responded: "Not when there are injustices. There are angers that are perfectly healthy because they correspond to people's suffering. There are angers I will have even when I am president of the republic."

In the middle of her sentence, Mr. Sarkozy tried to stop her, asking, "Madame Royal, would you allow me to say one word?" But she ignored him.

His voice took on a patronizing tone. "I don't know why the usually calm Madame Royal has lost her nerve," he said.

Mr. Sarkozy repeatedly tried to paint Ms. Royal as uninformed. She tried to paint him as overbearing. There was equal-time interruption.

Making this race even more compelling, political analysts were divided on who had "won" the debate, Ségo or Sarko, as they call them here.

Mr. Sarkozy got points for not losing his temper. But Ms. Royal's losing her temper caused different reactions. Some found it exhilarating, a sign that the left would not be complacent. Others found it unnerving. No one found it boring.