CNN's Situation Room asks: "[C]an what happened in the French election mimic our own race for president?"

››› ››› MATT GERTZ

CNN's Wolf Blitzer and Carol Costello drew an analogy between the French presidential election and a possible 2008 matchup between Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani, misleadingly suggesting that the victory of "law-and-order, plain-talking conservative" Nicolas Sarkozy in France bodes well for Giuliani -- whose actual record on security issues has come under considerable criticism -- and referring to Clinton as a "liberal woman" who is similar to Sarkozy's opponent, the socialist Ségolène Royal.

On the May 8 edition of CNN's The Situation Room, host Wolf Blitzer and contributor Carol Costello drew an analogy between the May 6 French presidential election between conservative UMP party candidate Nicolas Sarkozy and Socialist Party candidate Ségolène Royal and a potential U.S. presidential contest in 2008 between former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R) and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY). Blitzer and Costello referred to Clinton as a "liberal woman" who is similar to the socialist Royal, and suggested that the victory of the "law-and-order, plain-talking conservative" Sarkozy bodes well for Giuliani.

Costello reported that Giuliani had noted approvingly a May 7 column by the New York Post's Fred Siegel, headlined "A French Rudy," during a recent campaign stop. The column drew parallels between the personas, policies, and campaign styles of Sarkozy and Giuliani, concluding that they were very similar. Costello added: "And when a law-and-order, plain-talking conservative candidate wins, French or not, some say Giuliani could not resist" mentioning it, implying that Giuliani is also a "law-and-order, plain-talking conservative." Costello also called Sarkozy a "conservative strong-on-security kind of guy running against a liberal woman. Sound familiar?" But despite the media's frequent references to Giuliani as "America's Mayor" and the "hero of 9-11," his actual record on security issues has come under considerable criticism. As Media Matters for America has repeatedly noted, in their book Grand Illusion: The Untold Story of Rudy Giuliani and 9/11 (HarperCollins, 2006), Village Voice senior editor Wayne Barrett and CBSNews.com senior producer Dan Collins cited several of what they presented as Giuliani's terrorism-related failures before, during, and after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, including his decision to put his terrorism command center in the 7 World Trade Center building, which collapsed on 9-11.

Situation Room host Wolf Blitzer introduced Costello's segment by referring to the comparisons made between the French and U.S. presidential elections as "interesting correlations." Following Costello's report, he asked Bill Maher, host of HBO's Real Time, what he thought of "this comparison, the election in France, where you had a liberal woman running against a conservative man, and the implications for Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani." Maher replied: "I don't think there are any implications at all. I know the right wing likes to think that everything is about us, but it's not. It was the French election, with French issues and French candidates." Indeed, Royal's socialist platform included preserving the French 35-hour work week and combating unemployment by creating 500,000 new government-subsidized jobs for young graduates.

Later, Blitzer asked Situation Room commentator Jack Cafferty: "Should he be heartened -- Giuliani -- that a conservative male beat a liberal female in France?" Cafferty replied, "I don't know that that translates here. I think there's a whole lot of issues in this country that are going to dictate what drives the next election. I don't know that France has anything to do with it." Blitzer then stated that he agreed with Cafferty.

Blitzer and Costello's comments echoed a May 8 Washington Post article by reporters Anne E. Kornblut and Perry Bacon Jr., which asserted: "[T]he Royal campaign seemed likely to provide fodder, if not exact parallels, for analysts wondering about the role that identity politics will play in the 2008 campaign in the United States, when a woman and an African American are battling each other at the top of the Democratic field." On his Drudge Report website, Internet gossip Matt Drudge linked to the article under the headline: "Hillary campaign: Senator is no Ségolène." The link was accompanied by large, side-by-side photos of Clinton and Royal making similar gestures while campaigning.

From the 5 pm ET hour of the May 8 edition of CNN's The Situation Room:

BLITZER: We'll get to Bill Maher in a moment. But first, some interesting correlations being made today about the French presidential election and the U.S. election coming up next year. Carol Costello once again joining us from New York. What's this all about, Carol?

COSTELLO: Well, Wolf, it's about riding on a winner's coattails and using that other guy's win to deflect criticism from yourself.

[begin video clip]

COSTELLO: Who knew a French politician could so inspire an American candidate for president? But there was Rudy Giuliani reveling in a tabloid comparison to Nicholas Sarkozy.

GIULIANI: I was particularly interested in this column in the -- in the New York Post. See it? "A French Rudy." See this? I thought it was a good omen.

COSTELLO: Bet you didn't know Rudy Giuliani was following the French race for president so closely. But he was.

GIULIANI: I kept my support for him very quiet.

COSTELLO: And when a law-and-order, plain-talking conservative candidate wins, French or not, some say Giuliani could not resist.

CHRIS SMITH, (New York magazine): I mean, A, he's eager to talk about anything other than abortion, associating himself with a winner. Everybody loves a winner.

COSTELLO: But can what happened in the French election mimic our own race for president? There are similarities. A conservative, strong-on-security kind of guy running against a liberal woman. Sound familiar? And if you're a competitive conservative candidate, could you resist pointing out that the liberal woman lost?

CLINTON: Hi, everybody.

COSTELLO: And some politicos say the joke may be on the Democrats, pointing out the new French president had been expected to lose.

DAVID GERGEN (former presidential adviser): But when it came down to the one-on-one, people took -- took a look at the two -- two candidates and said, you know, we sort of like the conservative better. And he won a handy election. So that was -- that's quite interesting. I would think that would give some pause to the Democrats.

COSTELLO: But the Clinton camp doesn't appear to be worried, telling us other than the fact that they're both women, they don't have much in common. Still, Royal's failed campaign is sure to provide fodder for those who want American voters to mirror the French.

[end video clip]

COSTELLO: In fact, the French candidate, Miss Royal, wanted to visit Senator Clinton during her run for president as a symbolic gesture -- you know, two women running for president. But Clinton declined to meet Royal because her views were at odds with Senator Clinton's -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Carol Costello in New York for us. Thank you, Carol. Let's turn to a veteran of the late night TV talk show circuit for his take on the presidential campaign and everything else. Joining us now, Bill Maher, the host of HBO's Real Time With Bill Maher. Bill thanks for coming in.

MAHER: Hey, Wolf. How you doing?

BLITZER: I should say HBO, a sister network of ours. What do you think of this comparison, the election in France, where you had a liberal woman running against a conservative man, and the implications for Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani?

MAHER: Well, I don't think there are any implications at all. I know the right wing likes to think that everything is about us, but it's not. It was the French election, with French issues and French candidates. Not everything is about America. And if he is a French Rudy, I hope he's a more effective French Rudy than the Rudy we have.

[...]

BLITZER: Should he be heartened -- Giuliani -- that a conservative male beat a liberal female in France?

CAFFERTY: I don't know that that translates here. I think there's a whole lot of issues in this country that are going to dictate what drives the next election. I don't know that France has anything to do with it.

BLITZER: I think you're right, Jack. Thanks very much.

Network/Outlet
CNN
Person
Wolf Blitzer, Carol Costello
Show/Publication
The Situation Room
Stories/Interests
Rudy Giuliani, Hillary Clinton, 2008 Elections
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