The awful beauty of that remark lies in how it hints at what he had so often felt. Wanting her to be like the normal children, the ones who couldn't help noticing that she was different, must have been the dearest wish of his private life. Knowing that the wish could never come true mus have been his most intimate acquaintance with defeat. For us, who overhear the last gasp of a long agony, there is the additional poignancy of recognizing that the Man of Destiny lived every day with a heavenly dispensation that he could not control.James appears to believe that it humanized the angular and difficult man. He writes:
"De Gaulle behaved as if the fate of France was his sole concern, but the secret of his incomparable capacity to act in that belief probably lay in a central humility. ... [L]ikely ... the touchstone of his humanity was his poor daughter. Nothing is more likely to civilize a powerful man than the presence in his house of an injured loved one his power can't help. Every night he comes home to a reminder that God is not mocked; a cure for his invincibility.One can only hope that that is true. Or, one wishes that it were true.
James' de Gaull sketch is in Cultural Amnesia pp 157-60. And here's another excellent insight: flipping to the next, I find that James consigns to the ranks of the overrated one Edward Gibbon, author of The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. Man, I've been waiting for someone to say that.