What The French President Had For Lunch

President Bush, center, walks with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, right, at the home of former President George H.W. Bush, left, Saturday, Aug. 11, 2007, in Kennebunkport, Maine. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci) AP

Written by CBS News White House Correspondent Mark Knoller
A State Dinner, it wasn't.

It was a diplomatic luncheon for the new President of France Nicolas Sarkozy, but the menu was a far cry from haute cuisine.

"We're going to give him a hamburger or hot dog, his choice," said President Bush as he awaited Sarkozy's arrival at Walker's Point, the 11-acre, century-old family compound owned by the Mr. Bush's parents.

Chatting with reporters, he trumpeted the rest of the menu for the French leader.

"If he'd like some baked beans we've got that, as well," he said of Sarkozy.

"Native Maine corn," chimed in Laura Bush.

The first couple performed a duet of all-American picnic fare.

"Corn on the cob, real fresh this time of year," said the President

"Salad, fresh tomatoes," said Mrs. Bush.

And don't forget dessert.

"If he feels like it, he can have him a piece of blueberry pie – fresh blueberries up here in Maine," boasted the President.

Jacques Chirac, the former French President, might have turned up his nose at burgers and dogs, though he used to brag about working as a young man in America at a Howard Johnson's and serving up countless fried clam rolls.

But Mr. Bush had higher hopes for Chirac's successor.

"I think he's bringing goodwill. He's bringing a good brain, good vision and goodwill," said the president of Sarkozy.

And that was the point of the lunch – to try to open a new chapter in U.S. relations with France after six years of sometimes caustic differences with Chirac – who vehemently opposed the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

Sarkozy and his family had been vacationing for the last week at Lake Winnipesaukee in neighboring New Hampshire. When Laura Bush learned their visit coincided with the Bush's long weekend here, she invited them to lunch.

But the best laid plans went awry. Sarkozy had to fly back to France on Friday to attend a funeral, but he rushed back across the Atlantic to resume his holiday in time for the seaside picnic with the Bushes.

He was to have been accompanied by his family, but this morning his wife Cecilia phoned Mrs. Bush to say she and her children had sore throats and could not come.

The French leader's vacation in America has drawn fire in France, though Sarkozy makes no apologies for it.

"I came to visit the United States on holiday, on vacation, like 900,000 French do every year," he told reporters after arriving at the Bush estate.

"It's a great country," Sarkozy said, "I'm very happy to be here."

Can you imagine the furor on the Op-Ed pages if Pres. Bush vacationed in a foreign country? Yet, he says he'd be willing to do that.

"There's some spectacular spots around the world that would be great places to relax," he said.

What if Sarkozy invites him to take a French holiday?

"Absolutely. Absolutely. Particularly if he could find a place for me to ride my mountain bike."

The French Alps, peut-être.

If the subject came up in their talks, we can't say. President Bush, his dad and Sarkozy spent nearly an hour talking privately. And after lunch, they put his digestion to the test by taking him for a high-speed ride aboard Mr. Bush-the-elder's Cigarette boat, Fidelity III.

It's got three, 275-horsepower outboard engines and can hit speeds of 73-mph.

As they zoomed past the press boat, Sarkozy was holding on for dear life, but it seemed he kept his lunch down.
Mark Knoller
  • James Klatell

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