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Sunday, June 16
The Indiana Daily Student


The Sarkozy complex: little man on campus

French President Nicolas Sarkozy, center, shares a word with Luxembourg’s Prime Minister Jean Claude Juncker, left, and Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende as they enter a round table meeting Wednesday during an EU summit in Brussels.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy is a tiny man.

At 5 feet 5 inches, the guy’s actually shorter than Napoleon – and his touchiness on the subject is almost as notorious as his sometimes-ridiculous attempts to mask it.

Of course, each effort to appear taller has resulted in its respective French media field day, and lucky for said media, the more the government strives for subtlety, the more ridiculous the endeavors become.

To be fair, the first was in all likelihood instinctive, with Sarkozy simply standing on his tiptoes in a photograph taken during his April trip to the White House. It might have even gone unnoticed had the Obamas and French first lady Carla Bruni not towered over him.

That, though, is what you get for marrying a 5-foot-9-inch former supermodel, so I somehow have trouble pitying the guy.

The next time, barely two months later, was clearly a much more thought-out attempt.

In Normandy for a ceremony commemorating the 65th anniversary of D-Day, Sarkozy found himself speaking at a lectern clearly designed for taller fellow speakers Obama and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

The solution? A discreetly placed footstool at the base of the platform.

Well, potentially discreet, anyway: A profile shot of Sarkozy speaking soon became a press and Internet sensation. (Seriously, give it a Google. It’s definitely a silly picture.)
Ah, but the third attempt, made in September, is by far my favorite.

Wanting to avoid the footstool backlash, Sarkozy’s aides – or, allegedly, event organizers – took their first stab at real subtlety.

Why they were confident it wouldn’t backfire is totally beyond me.

Speaking once more in Normandy, this time at a motor technology plant in Caen, Sarkozy appeared onstage with several plant researchers – all of whom, curiously, were Sarkozy’s height or shorter.

Yes, it would have worked beautifully – had the press not been already on the lookout for another height brouhaha.

“Is it true you were all picked to appear alongside the president because of your height?” a reporter asked a woman who had stood behind Sarkozy during the speech.

Of course, the woman offered an affirmative response, which a trade union leader later confirmed.

Presidential spokesmen dismissed the “absurd and grotesque” accusation – but considering they were the ones who put Sarkozy on a footstool, I must admit having some issue believing them.

As Americans, it’d be easy to assume that all the attention the media give to Sarkozy’s height would only overshadow any relevant political news, but luckily, the French love their politics.

I, on the other hand, know nothing, so my only thought as I walk past the posters in my school’s commons of Sarkozy flipping the bird – a remnant of last year’s student strike in opposition to university reform – my main thought is, “Well, there’s an angry little fella.”

But hey, if I were short, I’d probably be pretty mad about it, too.

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