France's Socialist Sun King

A remarkable political career will end next May when the longest-ruling Western leader of this century--French President Franois Mitterrand--retires at 78 after 14 years in power. Looking back, it's hard to fathom how this aloof chameleon of a politician could have had such a long run. In a country where political conviction supposedly counts, Socialist Mitterrand has been as strong-spined as a crpe suzette. Starting out as an archconservative, he switched in middle age to rabid Marxism and later turned moderate, with lots of twists and turns in between.

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