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France: General Ignorance

2 minute read

Charles de Gaulle has always been aloof with journalists, and never with better reason than at the close of 1965. It was, after all, the press that had responded with the greatest glee at his humiliation by the voters during last month’s election. As a result hardly anyone expected his annual New Year’s Eve reception for newsmen to be much of a brandy warmer. It wasn’t.

To nearly every question put to him in the brief, 25-minute audience, the general coldly professed ignorance. “I can’t tell you anything,” he snapped, apropos of U.S. Ambassador Goldberg’s conference with him earlier in the day. Had the general any plan to meet President Johnson? “If I knew of one, I wouldn’t tell you,” De Gaulle replied icily. Would he travel in 1966? “I don’t know,” grumped De Gaulle, cryptically adding an old French Line slogan. “The world is small, and only America is big, as the Compagnie Générale Transatlantique used to say.” Finally in desperation, a reporter asked De Gaulle what books he had read during the Christmas holidays. “I can’t tell you,” came the reply. “If I told you the books I have read, then you would know the books I haven’t read.”

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