Sarkozy Does Damage Control

    France's President Nicolas Sarkozy, left, arrives with Prime Minister Francois Fillon to address his New Year speech to the Justice representatives at the Elysee Palace in Paris, Friday, Jan. 13, 2012. The euro fell to a 17-month low against the dollar on news reports that France's credit rating might be downgraded by Standard & Poor's. If France were downgraded it could hurt efforts to resolve Europe's debt crisis. (AP Photo/Charles Platiau, Pool)

    Charles Platiau / AP Photo

    The U.S. credit agency Standard and Poor’s downgraded nine European countries Friday and stripped France and Austria of their pristine triple-A ratings. The Austrian government lashed out immediately, saying it was “incomprehensible” that one U.S. agency would do this on its own. France’s Nicolas Sarkozy, who will seek reelection in three months, sent his prime minister to the press Saturday, where he said that the decision should not be “dramatized” or “underestimated.” Sarkozy’s opponent in the election, Francois Hollande, took advantage of the occasion, saying the move reflected that it was the current president’s politics that were downgraded, not the nation’s credit. Meanwhile, the French papers wallowed in gloom, focusing on how Germany maintained its rating. Germany's Merkel said that while there's a "long road" ahead, the downgrade will not derail the rescue effort.

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