Hollande was elected as "president normal," an unassuming contrast to Sarkozy's flashy, aggressive style, and his dramatic divorce and marriage to the model and singer Carla Bruni. But a year into his term, his amiability has managed to turn most of the country against him, even within his own camp. Numerous Socialist lawmakers are openly speaking against him, for example, for demanding they publish their assets.
The president appears to relish simple, easy contact with the French. He can spend hours happily shaking hands, telling stories, joking. But those moments are becoming increasingly rare.
"He is consumed by his responsibilities, too consumed, in my opinion," said Poignant. "The political climate is such that the president is becoming the target of protests. We have to protect him for security reasons: It is very difficult for him to be close to the French."
Only about one in four French approve of the job Hollande is doing, lower than either of his conservative predecessors.
He says he is willing to wait for that to change, describing his five-year term in two phases: things will be very difficult in the first phase, then a return to growth and the Socialist preference toward more government spending. His advisors — and most economists — say privately they don't expect much good news for France before 2015.
"The French have always turned to the president. He is accountable to them, and that's as it should be. My actions are measured at this particular moment in our country's history," he said. "I remain in control of myself, confident in what I think."
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