Rahm Emanuel and Nicolas Sarkozy

If Nicolas Sarkozy survives the first-round vote this Sunday, and if he wins the runoff election on May 6th, we could see him standing together with Rahm Emanuel at the NATO summit in Chicago, one month from today. But if he ends up losing, Sarkozy—elected in 2007 as the head of a center-right party—could suffer the ignomy of being the only French president since 1981 to serve just one term. The runoff election takes place two weeks before Sarkozy plans to arrive in Chicago. Most polls predict that Sarkozy will lose to Socialist Party candidate François Hollande, but France is facing a complicated election at a scary time in Europe, and Sarkozy, a leader in trying to fix the Euro-Zone mess, could pull off a narrow win.

If Sarkozy does manage a victory (the winner will be inaugurated on May 17th, a few days before the NATO summit starts here on May 20th), it’ll be interesting to observe the strong personality similarities between the son of a Hungarian immigrant and former mayor of Neuilly-sur-Seine, and Emanuel, the son of an Israeli immigrant: Both men are pugnacious and brash, given to bullying, hot-tempered (repressed, for the time being at least, in Rahm’s case), centrist and business-friendly, tireless, hyperactive, and remarkably ambitious—even for politicians.

Then there’s the physical resemblance: Sarkozy, 57, and Emanuel, 52, towering egos aside, are both shorter men. Sarkozy, of bulkier build, is reported to be extremely self-conscious about his height (like Rahm, around 5’5”). Today, on the front page of the Drudge Report, was this photo of Sarkozy, riding his bike in heavy traffic, wearing a fierce expression and full-cycling regalia, sans helmet, his right hand (in knuckle-high gloves) raised as if daring auto drivers to deny him his divine right of way. (Looking at the photo I couldn’t help but think of our avid cyclist mayor on his Parlee road bike, which, the Sun-Times’ Mike Sneed reports, is “…custom fit … and costing “somewhere between $4,800 and $15,600.”)

The similarities don’t end there. In a story published today about the French elections, The New York Times’ Steven Erlanger quotes a French TV analyst as describing Sarkozy as “always in a rush and trying to solve every problem.” Erlanger next quotes Sarkozy’s biographer as describing her subject as a man who “…changes the subject every day, people forget the next day what he did the day before, he fogs the brain.”

Sound familiar?


Photography: (Emanuel) Esther Kang; (Sarkozy) European People's Party