Friday, October 14, 2016

A President Shouldn't Say That!

"A president shouldn't say that." Was ever a book more accurately titled? François Hollande seems to have driven the final nail into his own coffin with the release of this volume of "confessions" to 2 journalists from Le Monde. What was he thinking?

The Socialist Party is not happy. « Imaginez l’enterrement de votre grand-mère alors qu’elle est toujours vivante, et vous aurez une idée du climat général » at meetings of the party group supposed to be planning the president's re-election campaign.

Not long ago I asked a member of the government what the climate was like inside the cabinet. "What climate?" he said. The implication was that there is no longer much communication inside the government, let alone solidarity. It's every man for himself as the ship sinks.

Why would Hollande descend to discussing his presidency and private life with journalists as though he were sharing a coffee at the Café de Commerce? Perhaps it was a botched exercise in pipolisation, an effort to appear once again le président normal he promised to be in reaction against the hyperpresidency of Sarkozy.

If so, it was a miscalculation. What his few remaining supporters need now is a rationale to re-elect this all-too-normal president. He needs to show some grasp of the reasons for his failure to persuade the nation that a coherent strategy underlies the apparent directionlessness of his presidency. Instead, he has provided proof that he spent far more time schmoozing with reporters than with his own ministers.

I think he's finished.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

My Great Depression

New Prospect column here.

Another Useless Poll

Until the field is sorted out, it's difficult to do meaningful presidential polling in France, with its multiparty system, two-round voting, and primarying required of some candidates but not others. So the pollsters resort to asking people which political personalities they have a good, mediocre, or bad opinion of. Paris Match just published one. Alain Juppé, who should be called the Venerable Juppé, not only because of his age but also because of his rebirth as a quasi-saintly figure who stands, de Gaulle-like, above the political fray, tops the charts. He is followed, naturally, by three names who benefit from being literally out of the fray: Bayrou, Raffarin, and Aubry. And then come the surprises: Mélenchon followed by Fillon. Mélenchon apparently enjoys a high rating among those working-class voters who have deserted the left for Marine Le Pen. Not surprising. JLM has been working hard to bring them back. Hollande? He's well back in the peloton, behind Brice Hortefeux (!) and Stéphane Le Foll (!!). How much more bizarre can a poll get. If you don't like Hollande, what would you see in his long-time toady Le Foll? A head of hair and an impressive physique?

But fear not. Hollande is ready!

Monday, October 3, 2016

Pithiest Political Commentary of the Week

The prize goes to J.-C. Cambadélis, commenting on Arnaud Montebourg's decision to participate in the PS primary after all:

« Mélenchon lui a pris ses voix et Macron la lumière, il lui restait quoi comme choix ? » Jean-Christophe Cambadélis, le premier secrétaire du Parti socialiste, résume à sa façon le dilemme d’Arnaud Montebourg. L’ancien ministre de l’économie a annoncé, dimanche 2 octobre, qu’il participera finalement à la primaire organisée par le PS les 22 et 29 janvier 2017.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

A Fever Grips the Entire Nation

What would Tocqueville have made of the US (or French) presidential election. I take up the question in The Nation. It's the cover story in this week's issue.

La Nuit des Couteaux Longs

There used to be honor among thieves, but no longer. Jean-François Copé, evidently bitter at being left to swing slowly, slowly in the wind in the Bygmalion affair, has unloaded on Nicolas Sarkozy and, less predictably, on François Fillon:

Alors le candidat à la primaire des Républicains, sûr de son destin, sourd aux quolibets, s’emballe. Et déballe. Il pense avoir été la victime d’un complot politico-judiciaire, orchestré par Nicolas Sarkozy et François Fillon, désireux de régler son compte à leur ennemi commun en lui faisant payer les (fausses) factures de l’UMP. Jean-François Copé, entre rancune et revanche, accuse.
What a sordid business! What a lovely party.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Open Racism

French racists no longer even try to hide their true colors. Eric Zemmour presented his new book (a compilation of his columns over the past 5 years) to a large crowd in Versailles, where he was interviewed on stage by Marion Maréchal-Le Pen. The master of ceremonies introduced him thus:
« Ici, vous êtes en famille. Pas de SOS-Racisme, pas de LICRA [Ligue internationale contre le racisme et l’antisémitisme]. »
But who can be shocked any longer in the age of Donald Trump? Zemmour did not disappoint his audience:
Le journaliste ne craint pas d’adopter une posture maximaliste. C’est même ce que son public lui réclame, à grand renfort d’applaudissements. « C’est un défi civilisationnel que nous lance l’islam, estime-t-il. L’islam est conquérant par essence (…). A toutes les frontières de l’islam, il y a la guerre. Toutes les frontières de l’islam cèdent. »
Cette religion, « incompatible » selon lui avec la République, la laïcité, la démocratie, ou tout simplement la France, aurait investi des champs délaissés, le « pouvoir viril, l’autorité, la hiérarchie, la spiritualité ». Une situation rendue possible par la discrétion supposée du christianisme, et surtout la trahison d’élites qui ont fait alliance « avec le nouveau peuple arabo-musulman contre le vieux peuple français ».
François Hollande said yesterday in remarks directed at Nicolas Sarkozy, if the right in France pursues this course on which it seems doggedly set, there will be civil war. The phrase was not well-chosen. A "civil war" against a minority of 8 percent is not a war but a massacre. The "virile power" that Zemmour calls for will have blood on its hands. These people must be stopped, but with the left in total disintegration, is there anyone left to stop them?

Monday, September 19, 2016

Comparative Disruption: US and France

The presidential campaigns in the US and France are destabilizing political systems in both countries. I write about it here.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Sarkozy, Climate Change Denier

I am beginning to wonder if Nicolas Sarkozy is not working to elect Marine Le Pen. He has adapted Goldwater's slogan in the service of himself: Extremism in the defense of Nicolas Sarkozy is no vice. Now he has added climate change denial to his list of sins, repudiating his own previous position on the issue. "We human beings must be arrogant to think that it is we who cause climate change."  The Good Lord may be flattered by this nod to his transcendent powers, but Sarko's intended audience is the working-class voters whose jobs Marine Le Pen has promised to protect (or bring back) by exempting factories from any need to rein in their emissions. Whether there are any votes to be won here remains to be seen, but Sarkozy has meanwhile demonstrated that he deserves his old epithet L'Américain. But its meaning has changed. Previously it signified that he was a supply-side tax-cutter, a neoliberal in the Reagan-Bush mold. Now it means that he has become Donald Trump: a shameless prevaricator who will say and do anything to gain advantage. Post-truth politics has come to France.

Friday, September 9, 2016

The PS and the EU

I have a new piece in Foreign Policy giving some of the historical background of the current EU crisis.