Why France probably doesn’t want a first lady


Macho pundits congratulate Macron as if an adolescent hero, to be saluted for bedding his teacher. Others mutter suspiciously about the domineering influence of an older woman.

The founder of this week’s petition, comedian-activist Thierry Paul Valette, has repudiated personal attacks on Madame Macron herself. But the whiff of personal dislike still emanates from many of her critics on social media. Who is this woman, and why does she have such a hold over the Elysee’s young prince?

Naturally, the French don’t merely object to a first lady because they dislike Brigitte Macron. There’s a deeper cultural difference here between American and French approaches.

In American presidential elections, “character” is always a hot topic of discussion. A man’s choice of wife (or rarely, a woman’s choice of husband) is seen as reasonable evidence of character. Family values — the ability to keep your wife smiling at your side and shepherding the children — are prized.

Europeans, and especially the French, tend to be more skeptical about their leaders’ personal lives. You can’t be sure who your leader is really building a family with — President Mitterrand’s mistress and illegitimate daughter were famously photographed next to his wife at his funeral — but you know what he said about EU tax law when grilled on prime-time TV.

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