I was tempted to title this blog post “Dump Him, Valérie!!,” but I suppose I will leave that for the conclusion, instead I’ve borrowed the headline of an Italian gossip magazine “Oggi”. I have become slightly obsessed in the past few days with the sordid sex and politics drama in Paris. I think it is because Valerie Trierweiler, the “Première Dame” of France is a woman who is about my age, a former journalist with three children and at the moment “resting” in the hospital as the whole world chews on the details of the love affair of her companion, French President Francois Hollande, and a beautiful, young blond actress named Julie Gayet.
For those of you who missed the story, last week a French magazine called “Closer” revealed what was, as the Italian’s say, Pulcinella’s Secret, something everyone knows but does not say out loud, that the French President is having an affair with a gorgeous young actress. The magazine detailed how the President would emerge from the Élysée Palace, get in an official car, drive around the block, put on a full-head covering motorcycle helmet and go on a motor-scooter about 100 meters away to 20 Rue De Cirque, where his lover was waiting in a ‘Pied à Terre’ for him. The magazine even had photos of this happening on December 30th and his body guard arriving the next morning, ringing the bell and delivering a bag with fresh croissants.
Hollande’s current companion 48-year-old Valérie Trierweiler, the ‘Première Dame’ of France was admitted to the hospital last Friday according to her aides “in shock” and there she remains.
At a press conference at the Élysée Palace yesterday Hollande faced some 600 journalists and cut off questions about the affair saying “private matters should be dealt with privately.” When asked whether Trierweiler was still the ‘Première Dame’ of France he said he did not want to answer that while she was still in the hospital but he would make clear who was the ‘Première Dame’ before his visit to Washington on February 11th. Nice guy.
A personal note here. I once covered Hollande shortly after he became president of France when he held a press conference together with then Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti in Rome. I was expecting to like him, instead I found him to be smarmy, trying to ingratiate himself with journalists, agitated and not particularly attractive with his dyed hair and plump face. He made the staid Mario Monti seem like Sean Connery by comparison, elegant and refined. As far as I can tell Hollande is not a particularly good president either. France is not thriving and his popularity is the lowest of any French president in history. But as Henry Kissinger said, “power is the ultimate aphrodisiac.”
I think for as long as there have been male leaders in this world, there have been plenty of young women available to satisfy their desires. Certainly Valérie Trierweiler is not the first woman to find herself in this situation. In France alone there have been plenty of Presidents who cheated on their wives: Giscard D’Estaing was a known womanizer, and Francois Mitterrand had a second family. The tradition was that the wives did not complain and the press and public did not talk about it. That was the same on the other side of the Atlantic. Eleanor Roosevelt and Jackie Kennedy did not publicly complain about the love affairs of their husbands, and the press did not touch the story.
Times have changed and now we have a long series of sleazy love affairs among prominent politicians. Hillary Clinton stuck with Bill through the Monica Lewinsky affair. I thought she should dump him, but Hillary is an astute politician, she probably calculated that her political ambitions would be better served by staying with Bill Clinton. She might have been right. Despite her indisputable talents, would she have gone on to become Senator, Secretary of State and possibly the first woman President of the United States if she did not have Bill Clinton as her husband? I am not sure.
So what’s in it for Valérie Trierweiler? As ‘Première Dame’ she has an office at the Elysee Palace a five person staff, including secretaries, assistant, driver and body guard and reportedly a 20,000 euro month budget. Although she officially entered the Elysee Palace in May 2012 as the ‘Première Dame’ of France, her status can easily be taken away given that she is not married to Hollande. At his press conference yesterday Hollande did nothing to imply that he might be encouraging her to stay.
So Valérie Trierweiler does not feel alone, let me mention a few other women who have found themselves in a similarly difficult situation. I already mentioned Hillary Clinton, then there was Silda Spitzer whose husband, Eliot Spitzer, former governor of New York, was discovered to be frequenting a high-class prostitution ring. Or how about Elizabeth Edwards, struggling with cancer while campaigning for her husband, Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards, she discovered he had a child with is lover, or how about Jenny Sanford, former wife of Mark Sanford, ex-governor of South Carolina, who disappeared on a “hike on the Appalachian trail” for a week and turned out to be with a lover in Argentina. Then there is Veronica Lario, ex-wife of former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi who put up with endless humiliation from her philandering husband but in the end seems to have gotten the last laugh (See Blog Post : Veronica’s Revenge)
The latest gossip news making the rounds today is that Hollande’s lover Julie Gayet is four months pregnant. I have no idea if it is true or not but either way, my advice to Valérie Trierweiler is leave the hospital, dump Hollande and get on with your life. The sooner the better.
Trisha is a TV journalist working for AP TV News in Rome. She is married to an Italian and is a Mamma of three.