Sarkozy Does Damage Control

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.