Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Blame Morin

Edgar, not Hervé ... Pierre Assouline discerns the hand of Edgar Morin, the author of Une politique de civilisation, behind the much-criticized phrase in Sarkozy's speech--and Morin also spoke, as Sarko did, of une nouvelle Renaissance.

And Morin isn't pleased.

But for two UMP spokesmen, "civilization" is just a cosmetic term to beautify the familiar old saws, from purchasing power to national identity.

Sarkozy and Religion

Christian Terras notices an interesting feature of Sarkozy's Rome speech on religion: he twice casts himself as the Pope's peer in religious matters, as though he were not only the head of the French state but also the head of the French Church.

Sarkozy of course frequently remarks that he is a pragmatist rather than an intellectual. There is no humility in this admission; he believes that pragmatist voluntarism is clearly superior to irresolute intellectualism, which wavers in the face of uncertainty. His pragmatism seems to extend to religion as well: I am no more a theologian than I am an intellectual, he says, yet instinctively I see as the Pope does about this, I share his views about that. But if ever it proves inexpedient to share the Pope's views about anything, one can be sure that a pragmatic Gallicanism will prevail. Sarkozy has surrounded himself with the moral equivalent of Jesuit confessors, who tell him that his selective orthodoxy, be it in theology or economics, is just fine; and he has banished the doubting Jansenists from his court, while extending the open hand of ouverture to all who are willing to embrace his latitudinarianism, and of course to accept his Mme de Maintenon (née Tedeschi-Bruni).

Pétain's New Year's Greetings

Here's an arresting historical document: when the war is over, Pétain tells his countrymen, "les Français recommenceront à s'aimer." In the course of his speech he does not fail to excoriate the "barbarity of Communism" and the "crimes of bombardment" that have made of him "un Français qui souffre comme vous."

Other past New Year's speeches at the bottom of this article.

All Politics Is Local

"All politics is local," my former congressman Tip O'Neill is supposed to have said (if it wasn't Daniel Webster or Lycurgus before him), and Rue89 has the proof, not only of this adage but also of the corollary, "all local politics is personal."

Friends of Sarkozy

Back in the Clinton administration, it was useful to men of affairs to be known as "Friends of Bill," a designation so common that it merited its own abbreviation: FOB. FOS comes less trippingly off the tongue, but the Friends of Sarko make a distinguished club. Of course one might call them FONz, with apologies to Henry Winkler.