Sources in Washington are strongly denying rumors that Attorney-General Ashcroft has defected to France. But it seems hard to square those denials with this report.
The [French] National Assembly has voted to make it a criminal offence to show a lack of respect for the national anthem and the national flag, with penalties of up to E7,500 and six months in prison.
At the French cup final in the Stade de France last May between Bastia and Lorient, the playing of ‘La Marseillaise’ before the match was accompanied by loud whistling from the many Corsicans among the spectators. President Jacques Chirac was clearly furious, because moments later he left the stand. Recalling this incident, the president of the Football Federation Claude Simonet will not easily forget the words Chirac used at last year’s cup final to express his fury. “It’s inadmissible. I will not tolerate and I will not accept attacks on the essential values of the Republic and on those who express them.”
Update A Chirac comment that “The Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen is not a suicide pact” has generated rumors that Chief Justice Rehnquist might also have defected. But our sources tell us those negotiations have stalled over Rehnquist’s insistence on being allowed to wear his robes with the three chevrons, a demand strenuously opposed by the powerful French fashion industry.
Second update A Rehnquist clerk who would speak only on condition of anonymity claims to have heard the Chief complain about “being caught between Chirac and a hard place.”