Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Stiff-necked Steve Does Paris

Via the Calgary Herald:

Harper, Sarkozy a study in contrasts

A tanned Sarkozy then showed his populist touch, an image he is clearly trying to cultivate. After mere minutes inside the palace, Sarkozy led Harper on a stroll down the streets of Paris to Restaurant 1728, housed in a classical 18th townhouse built by an architect of Louis XV.

Curious Parisians craned to catch a glimpse of the two leaders from the cafes and shops lining the avenue, as Sarkozy admirers waved and clapped from the balconies.

The president appeared relaxed and mingled freely with the crowd, shaking hands and blowing kisses. Harper came off as much more reserved.

At one point, the pair waded into a group of Canadian journalists. The prime minister seemed apologetic for unwittingly leading Sarkozy into the lion's den.

The diminutive president nevertheless shook hands enthusiastically with the journalists, leaving Harper to quip, "I'm not going to shake hands with you guys; that would be too much."

In terms of bilateral relations, it was a successful day for Harper. He and Sarkozy are said to have hit it off when they first spoke on the phone last month. Harper described France as a "great friend," and Sarkozy is said to have warmly received an invitation to visit Canada.

Perhaps more important, the prime minister left Paris without taking much heat on Canada's position on climate change.

It is the second time in a week that Harper, who has struggled to increase support for his federal Conservatives, has appeared wooden next to a charismatic leader. In a visit to Ontario and British Columbia, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger enthused about climate change while poking fun at his own movie-star persona.

So, what do you think it would take to get Steve to loosen up?

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