The French vs. the Saudis

Who’s worse?

American voters face a dreadful choice on Nov. 2: France or Saudi Arabia? According to President Bush and his allies, John Kerry “looks French”; “would let Paris decide when America needs defending”; and sits on the “left bank” of American politics.

Kerry and his cronies, meanwhile, say a vote for Bush is a vote for Riyadh. Craig Unger’s House of Bush, House of Saud—one of the Democratic must-reads of the season—charges of Bush and Saudi Arabia: “Never before has an American president been so closely tied to a foreign power that harbors and supports our country’s mortal enemies.” The biggest applause line in Kerry’s convention acceptance speech was “I want an America that relies on its own ingenuity and innovation—not the Saudi royal family.”


Which bedfellow do you want? Greedy petrosheiks or sanctimonious frogs? Religious extremists or cynical atheists? Women in black veils? Or black lingerie? To help readers decide, Slate offers this guide to our so-called allies. 


Saudi ArabiaSaudi ArabiaFranceSo, Who’s Worse?
Greatest ExportOilAudrey TautouSaudis
Favorite PastimeShopping in DubaiSmoking, slagging off AmericansFrench
Legal FoundationsSharia—chop off hands of thieves, women second-class citizensCode Napoléon—all citizens equal under the lawSaudis
Penalty for AdulteryStoningC’est drôle!Saudis
Embarrassing Yet Colorful Public SpectacleBeheadingsTopless beachesSaudis
National StyleAustere conformism in public; glitzy tastelessness in privateChic elegance in public; elegant chicness in privateSaudis
Attitude to Iraq War and AmericaOpposed invasion; detest American influence in Middle EastOpposed invasion; detest American influence in Middle EastTie
Favorite Kind of Anti-SemitismFunding HamasDesecrating Jewish graveyardsSaudis
Homegrown TerroristsOsama Bin Laden, plus 15 of the 19 Sept. 11 hijackersZacarias MoussaouiSaudis
Noted American PilgrimMalcolm XMickey RourkeFrench
Famous IntellectualsUm …Derrida, Pascal, Sartre, Foucault …French
Most Celebrated Observer of AmericaHani Saleh Hasan HanjourAlexis de TocquevilleSaudis
Popular Anti-American CauseU.S. troops out of Saudi ArabiaU.S. McDonald’s out of FranceFrench
Most Successful Joint Venture With U.S.AramcoFranco American Chef BoyardeeSaudis
Great Moments in Democratic HistoryWomen denied right to vote, October 2004Revolution ignites democracy across Europe, July 1789Saudis
Royal DepravitiesSo manyEven moreFrench
ReligionWay, way too muchNoneSaudis
Men’s Headgear SmaghBeretFrench
Women’s HeadgearVeilAnd cover my 200-euro haircut?Saudis
DrivingWomen can’t driveNo one can drive; have you been in Paris lately?Saudis
Their MeccaMeccaFashion meccaFrench
Gross National StereotypePublicly pious, lazy, teetotaling, obscenely rich child of powerful ruling family—just like George BushNominally Catholic, hedonistic, pompous, preening, self-styled intellectual—just like John KerrySaudis