President Barack Obama threw a platterful of red meat to Britain’s tabloid press on Tuesday, saying that he could not judge a “best ally” contest between Britain and France any more than he could pick a favorite between daughters Sasha and Malia.
“I have two daughters. And they are both gorgeous and wonderful, and I would never choose between them,” Obama said at a joint press conference with visiting French President Francois Hollande at the White House. “And that's how I feel about my outstanding European partners. All of them are wonderful in their own ways.
“What I do believe is, is that the U.S.-French alliance has never been stronger,” Obama went on. "That's good for France. It's good for the United States. It's good for the world, because we share certain values and certain commitments and are willing to act on behalf of those commitments and values.”
Obama had been asked whether Paris had “replaced” London as Washington’s best friend on the global stage. The tight friendship between Britain and the United States is, as a rule, referred to in diplomatic circles as the “special relationship” — a kind of first among equals in world affairs.
Given a chance to answer the same question, Hollande took his answer in much the same direction. “Well, I have four children, so that makes it even more difficult for me to make any choice at all,” he said. “But we're not trying to be anyone's favorite. There are historic links. We share common values.
“And I can see that our views converge on many issues. But it's not about hierarchy; it's just about being useful to the world,” Hollande said through an interpreter.
It’s a recurring and sensitive question. Hollande’s proudly pro-American predecessor, Nicolas Sarkozy, irritably brushed it aside when he was asked roughly the same one in June 2008.
“The Americans and the French have had a privileged relationship for two centuries now,” Sarkozy said. “So, yes, it is a privileged relationship, but it's not privileged since I came to be elected; it's been privileged for two centuries now.”