How long before he turns up on the cover of People magazine with some suitably lanky actress on his arm? After decades of gentlemen's' agreements, Nicolas Sarkozy has finally thrown the French presidential undies into the media circus ring.
The French have always been good at keeping politics out of the bedroom, and the bedroom out of politics. Traditionally, the personal lives of French politicians were off limits to reporters. As late as the 1980s, journalists sidestepped the existence of Francois Mitterand's mistress and illegitimate daughter -- the daughter even attended the state funeral. But the days of discretion are gone. French politicians are getting younger, more glamorous and certainly more media savvy. Earlier this year, Ségolène Royal, the former Socialist candidate for president, made an unprecedented power play when she publicly announced her split from Francois Holland, the leader of the Socialist Party and father of her four children -- then she showed up looking hot in a bikini on her summer vacation.
I doubt whether the news of Sarkozy's imminent divorce will dim his popularity or silence his critics. The French like their leaders a little randy. Henri IV, best beloved of the French monarchs, was a famous bed-hopper with at least 11 illegitimate children.
The divorce announcement even had its political upside -- it drowned out news of yesterday's general strike, protesting pension cuts and the raising of the retirement age.
Sarkozy flashed his eager smile in front of every available camera to get himself elected. Now we'll see if the French public has the stomach for the moralizing sideshow to which we subject our politicians -- I doubt it.
I suspect they will be more proud than prissy, counting notches on the presidential belt.