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A Promised Land: Nicolas Sarkozy, Angela Merkel 'Private Affair' Revealed

Former US president Barak Obama has laid bare the contrasting personalities among Europe’s most powerful leaders in his latest book A Promis...

Former US president Barak Obama has laid bare the contrasting personalities among Europe’s most powerful leaders in his latest book A Promised Land.

The voluminous memoir, his third offering is an attempt to unravel his eight year tenure in the White House as the world’s dominant politician. He met the leaders during a G20 summit in London, which was Obama’s first appearance as the first US black president elected in 2008.

“Along with (Gordon) Brown, the most consequential Europeans – not just at the London summit but throughout my first term – were German chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy,” wrote Obama. 

“The rivalry between the continent’s two most powerful countries had caused nearly two centuries of bloody, on-and-off war.”

In chapter 14, Obama tells how his security would insist on bringing its own security apparatus, from guards, security cars – all flown to the destination before his arrival.

Though the two had a different temperate, they coordinated well in favor of American interests, Obama mentioned.

“Accordingly, Europe’s ability to move as a bloc—and to serve as America’s wingman on the world stage—depended largely on Merkel’s and Sarkozy’s willingness to work well together.

Obama further wrote that Merkel was dull looking, though she possessed a blunt logical sensibility. “Merkel’s eyes were big and bright blue and could be touched by turns with frustration, amusement, or hints of sorrow,” Obama said. “Otherwise, her stolid appearance reflected her no-nonsense, analytical sensibility.”   
Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy 
At one stage, the German premier was skeptical of Obama’s oratorical abilities. 

“She was famously suspicious of emotional outbursts or overblown rhetoric, and her team would later confess that she’d been initially skeptical of me precisely because of my oratorical skills,” the memoir revealed, adding that he took no offence to her thinking.

Describing Sarkozy, Obama wrote: “Sarkozy, on the other hand, was all emotional outbursts and overblown rhetoric. With his dark, expressive, vaguely Mediterranean features, he looked like a figure out of a Toulouse-Lautrec painting.” Toulouse-Lautrec was a 19th century French painter producing provocative artifacts.

Comparing the duo, Obama revealed the former French president’s approach in seeking political expedience. But unlike Merkel, he lurched all over the map when it came to policy, often driven by headlines or political expedience.”

But despite his weaknesses, Sarkozy was bold and charming. “What Sarkozy lacked in ideological consistency, he made up for in boldness, charm, and manic energy,” adding that, “Indeed, conversations with Sarkozy were by turns amusing and exasperating, his hands in perpetual motion, his chest thrust out like a bantam cock’s.”

However, despite the noted variances, the two complimented each other. “I came, though, to see Merkel and Sarkozy as useful complements to each other: Sarkozy respectful of Merkel’s innate caution but often pushing her to act, Merkel willing to overlook Sarkozy’s idiosyncrasies but deft at reining in his more impulsive proposals.”

Merkel and Sarkozy became a notable fixture in European political calendar, earning a joint nickname “Merkozy”, and once described as “chalk and cheese.” Sarkozy paid tribute to Merkel in his memoir The Time of Storms, mentioning that, “She takes the time to see everything and forget nothing.” He added that to underestimate Merkel was “a bad mistake.”

A Promised Land was released after US election in November, and has garnered positive reviews, with Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie praising the text. 

“It is not merely that this book avoids being ponderous, as might be expected, even forgiven, of a hefty memoir, but that it is nearly always pleasurable to read, sentence by sentence, the prose gorgeous in places, the detail granular and vivid.”

The book sold 890,000 copies on the first of release, and occupied The New York Times Best Sellers List for nonfiction for three consecutive weeks, becoming the bestselling presidential memoir in modern history. 

A second volume is forthcoming adding to his previous two books Dreams From My Father and The Audacity of Hope.

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