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France in U.S. Eyes: Just Say “Cheese”?

A collection of quotes on what Americans think of the U.S.-France relationship.

February 28, 2003

A collection of quotes on what Americans think of the U.S.-France relationship.

From an American perspective, the French refusal to support U.S. policy in Iraq was a slap in the face — especially after its support and aid of France during and after World War II. Things got so bad between the two “allies” that some U.S. diners started selling “Freedom Fries” instead of “French Fries.” The United States also urged its citizens to boycott other French products, such as cheeses and wines. Our Read My Lips tracks the U.S.-France row.

How bad did French insults get in the United States?

“Cheese-eating surrender monkeys.”

(National Review Online editorial, January 2003)

Does that pretty much sum up the majority of the American media’s viewpoint?

“If you want to see a country punching far above its weight class these days, look at France.”

(Robert Kagan, Washington Post columnist, November 2002)

Why were so many Americans appalled at France's oppositionist stance?

“I am particularly disgusted by the blind intransigence and utter ingratitude of France, Germany and Belgium. Had it not been for our military commitment, France, Germany and Belgium today would be Soviet socialist republics."

(Congressman Tom Lantos (D-CA), February 2003)

Wasn’t France justified in opposing a war in Iraq?

“France may not have the power to fight a war against Iraq, but it can make it damned hard for the United States to fight one — which is almost as good.”

(David Ignatius, Washington Post columnist, February 2003)

So, the French were just grandstanding at the United Nations then?

“For the past ten years, France and Russia have turned the United Nations into a stage from which to pursue naked self-interest.”

(Fareed Zakaria, Newsweek columnist, September 2002)

Is that what France is doing, looking after its own interests?

“France, it seems, would rather be more important in a world of chaos than less important in a world of order.”

(Michael Mandelbaum, foreign policy expert, February 2003)

Weren’t the French just trying to show the world how excessive American power had become?

“American power may harm French pride, but it also helped roll back Hitler, save a blockaded Berlin, defeat Communism — and rid the Balkans of a rampaging Slobodan Milosevic.”

(Former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, September 2003)

Is the United States expecting France to change its tune?

“France will be speaking very differently of the United States when a decent, democratizing, pro-American government in liberated Baghdad begins its rule — and opens bids for oil contracts.”

(Charles Krauthammer, Washington Post columnist, January 2003)

How did the U.S. government try to sway the American public?

“People should know how the French make their wine. It’s made clearer by using bovine blood.”

(John Feehery, spokesman for U.S. House of Representatives Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-IL), February 2003)

Was this move endorsed by other government leaders?

“Anything we can do to hurt them without hurting us, I will support.”

(U.S. Rep. Peter T. King (R-N.Y.), February 2003)

What did the United States really want to achieve with these campaigns?

“America wants only for the French to fall into line, while as anyone who has ever boarded a domestic Air France flight knows, the French do not stand in line.”

(Stacy Schiff, Pulitzer Prize winning author, February 2003)

Can France expect further repercussions for its wartime position?

“A country that uses its veto to stand in the way of American self-defense will not find many Americans wanting to guarantee its defense in the future.”

(Wall Street Journal editorial, January 2003)

Yet, can anyone live without France?

“Every man has two nations — his own and France.”

(Former U.S. President Thomas Jefferson)

Why is dealing with France so problematic?

“I wish I could separate the France I love from the France that drives me crazy — but I can’t.”

(Mr. Ignatius, February 2003)