Le President et moi seems a confession, if a reluctant one. As one of the most influential journalists in France (front page Ridet stories handedly helped legitimize the rising Sarkozy in the eyes of France's elite) there is a clear sense when you finish reading, that now, with Sarkozy safely ensconced in his Elysee Palace, the journalists who unwittingly helped him get there have been left behind; forgotten Falstaffs to a Prince Hal who's moved on.
This isn't to say Ridet was co-opted. But anecdote after anecdote confirms that Ridet, like so many others, couldn't help being charmed during Sarkozy's long, single-minded ascent to the Presidency. But now, with Sarkozy warm and remarried inside, journalists like Ridet continue to sit on the bleachers outside, forgotten and, insult over injury, widely accused of corruption by the "ayatollah's of the blogosphere", as Ridet bitterly calls critics of France's mainstream political journalists.
In a chat plugging the book with l'Express, Ridet reiterates his cool bitterness: Sarkozy's worst enemy is himself, he writes; all proximity and tutoiment is now for naught since phone calls are neither made nor returned ("using the tu with Sarkozy today is as useful as finding franc coins in an old coat").
The implications are a little too great to say that old hand journalists like Ridet feel betrayed, but I think in some ways they do, and maybe that's become a handicap to Sarkozy as he tries to move his struggling presidency along. From Sarkozy's shining light, Ridet and the others are slowly getting used to the cold and covering Sarkozy without Sarkozy working his magic in the background - a journalism closer to what at least some of the "ayatollahs" had in mind?
[In the Express chat, Ridet chides Airy Routier of the Nouvel Obs for clumsily passing along the Cecilia SMS scoop ("If you come back I cancel everything")by calling it "playing with matches". I've thought all along that the story was sourced from Cecilia's camp or Cecilia herself. With the match metaphor, I infer that Ridet does too.]