Tuesday, May 22, 2007

"A Berlusconian Stench"

Laurent Solly, Sarko's deputy campaign manager, is to become deputy general manager of the French television network TF1. The Communist Party detects in this move the stratagem of "a totally uninhibited presidency with a strong Berlusconian stench." Here in America we might think not of Berlusconi but of Roger Ailes, who served as consultant to Reagan and Bush I before becoming the founder of Fox News. Tocqueville wrote long ago that "in America as in France, the press constitutes an extraordinary power, so peculiarly compounded of goods and evils that without it liberty cannot survive and with it order can scarcely be maintained." Perhaps he underestimated the power of the Party of Order to subvert the media.

Thanks, David

Traffic on this site has taken off since David Bell mentioned it on The New Republic's Open University blog. One good turn deserves another. Readers interested in France will certainly enjoy David's excellent new book, The First Total War: Napoleon's Europe and the Birth of Warfare as We Know It.

To Govern Is to Choose

"To govern is to choose": Pierre Mendès France's dictum has long been one of my favorite statements of what politics is about. The Socialist Party, facing devastation in the upcoming legislative elections, is proving no more capable of making difficult choices after May 6 than before. Despite much talk of the need for "renovation" of the party, of "openings" to the center or the extreme left, and even of eschewing both the "socialist" and "social democratic" labels in favor of the presumably less fraught "radical reformist," one longs for a prominent socialist to take a concrete stand on something of substance. The future of Airbus, say. Sarko, fresh from conversations with Merkel on the issue, went to Toulouse to lay his cards on the table before the unions (Le Monde article here; subscription required) He didn't mince words: "I would rather invest in [a new plant to manufacture] composite materials at Meaulte than in a plan for early retirements at age 56."

Composites are the future of aviation. If there are to be jobs at Airbus for the next generation of workers, this generation may need to rearrange its priorities. Is there an alternative to the stark choice the president proposes between necessary modernization and desirable benefits? A true "radical reformist" party would have an answer to this question. Does the PS?

Which Way Is Left?

Ségolène Royal returned from vacation yesterday to discover that she is still the leader of the Left, according to a Libération poll. Yet the Left has been deprived of its most potent argument: that it was the party of not-Sarkozy. As Bernard Kouchner put it, Sarko was a "singularly dangerous, indeed completely irresponsible" candidate for proposing a ministry of immigration and national identity and speculating about the genes of pedophiles (quote here). But that was before Kouchner agreed to become foreign minister under Sarkozy. One can understand Kouchner's rationale for accepting the post, but the fact remains that in doing so he removed the stigma that his words, and countless like them, were meant to place on Sarkozy. Whatever the rationale, one does not join a government if one truly believes that its head is singularly dangerous and completely irresponsible.

The Left must now find its own identity, and as both the Libé poll cited above and this Libé article make clear, that won't be an easy task in its current state of ideological disarray.