Monday, October 29, 2007

The Spectator Discovers "French Politics"

Welcome, Spectator readers.

Rebsamen Book

François Rebsamen, co-manager of Royal's campaign, has published a book. Le Nouvel Obs has an excerpt about preparations for the final presidential debate. The strategy was to win over Bayrou voters, whom polls showed split evenly between Royal and Sarkozy. The subjects chosen to do this were the 35-hour week, retirement, and nuclear power. On the subject of retirement, Rebsamen recommended a simple proposal: forty years of contributions for everyone, public and private. Which sounds quite a bit like the Sarkozy reform, doesn't it? Without details, of course. Yet I haven't heard Rebsamen suggest to the unions currently protesting the reform that their protest is misguided, that the result would have been the same had the Socialists won the election.

One other diverting detail: the Sarkozy campaign had evidently arranged to refrigerate their candidate by having his chair placed over an air conditioner duct delivering air at 17 degrees C. Royal's team felt that she would be at a disadvantage because she would be wearing a skirt, and the cold air from below would be uncomfortable (we are not told why her chair also had to be over a duct). The solution: Sarko's air was raised to 21 degrees. It seems that he sweats easily, and his handlers hadn't wanted him to seem to break out in flop sweat as Nixon did in 1960 in his debate with Kennedy. For want of a nail, a kingdom was lost. But Sarko seems to have kept his sweat ducts under control even at 21 degrees.

Rebsamen still doesn't know why his candidate lost. He says that on the subject of nuclear power, she was prepared, she knew how to argue. Apparently he has forgotten that she made a huge error in trying to corner Sarkozy on the subject. She asked him what percentage of French electricity came from nuclear power. He gave an incorrect answer of 50 percent. "No, Monsieur Sarkozy, it's 17 percent," she triumphantly countered. But it wasn't. Seventeen percent is the percentage of nuclear power in total French energy consumption. The percentage of electricity derived from nuclear is much higher, and Sarkozy's answer was not only closer to the mark but also closer to the heart of the matter, which is that France is dependent on nuclear power for most of its electricity. Royal had failed to grasp this elementary point in attemtping to snare her opponent with a debater's trick.

Harvard in Aubervilliers or Gulag 93?

The BibliObs has a story on the transfer of the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales to Aubervilliers. Some see a plot to banish critics of the new regime from the center of Paris--and influence. Others see a vast new American-style campus arising in a neglected suburb, a vibrant center of intellectual life that could revitalize both the humanities and the neighborhood. Still others see only a need to remove the abestos from the school's current building and therefore a temporary dislocation. Opponents of the move have a Web site. This matter will no doubt agitate the chattering classes for months to come.