By Stephen Pollard
May 3, 2007
I switched over to the French presidential debate last night from the footie, once I saw how easily Milan would swat away the inept United. It was a wise choice. I can't remember the last time I have been so gripped by a political debate. It was supposedly as stage managed as even the most insipid US presidential debate, with a clock counting the exact number of seconds taken by each candidate and two questioners. But that only goes to show that when two real people want to have a real argument, stage management means nothing.
It really was compelling, Royal and Sarkozy interrupting each other, jabbing fingers, throwing out accusations of lying, and - in Royal's case - losing their temper. Ironic, given that Sarkozy has the fabled temper tantrums. Then when she called him immoral he was able to paint her as someone who doesn't accept the very basis of democracy - debate between opposing points of view.
I thought Sarkozy won, because he looked calm and in control, and was able to patronise Royal precisely because she was trying to patronise him. Her constant smiling looked really false, and when she lost her sang froid over help for the handicapped Sarkozy went for the kill, arguing that she had just shown why she wasn't fit to be President. As he put it: you can't have a President who loses their cool when they get annoyed,
The whole thing was utterly riveting. Not necessarily elevating or a quest of intellectual discovery, but riveting.