The difference between General de Gaulle and his successors is that he had a great sense for patriotism in the economic, the military and the political domain.
Of course, what he did in Algeria was ugly but he knew what the Independance of his country meant. Independance from the Nazis, from the Allied, from the EEC (ex EU), from bankers, from NATO, etc.
His speeches gathered hundreds of thousands of people (Phnom Penh Speech). He put Quebec on the map, in less than 24 hours.
Had he but not negotiated with the FLN and abandoned the Harkis, he could be in contention for greatest statesman of all time. I still have great admiration for him though.
How on earth can Sarkozy be compared to him? The guy who made up a Treaty that his own people rejected two years before ?? The guy who got back to military commannd while De Gaulle had so much trouble getting out of ?? The guy responsible for the death of 82 French soldiers in Afghanistan while Villepin was preparing their return. The guy who signed an agreement with the Brits for military nuke !
He should've long been removed !
CdG deserves credit for the role he played freeing France in WW2, certainly a great patriot. But unfortunately, much of this attitude spread into the peace time where it didn't belong. He became a little paranoid of foreign influence in France, trying to snub both America and the Soviets. But it's understandable growing up with Americans, British and Germans fighting each other in your own backyard. It simply needs to be kept in context.
Obviously Sarkozy didn't have to lead France out of a German occupation so the situations are totally incomparable. Peace-time leadership doesn't test strength of character in the same way as war leadership. In Britain you have to go back to Churchill to find a leader everyone respected. No-one ever gives credit to peace-time leaders.