Friday, April 30, 2010

Nous aussi

The Socialists have decided not to be outmaneuvered on the burqa issue. They won't go along with the UMP's hard ban because of their tender concern for "human rights." Nevertheless, they share the goal of ridding France of covered female faces. So:

"Elle vise au même objectif que le gouvernement : faire disparatre le voile intégral mais en veillant au respect de nos principes de droit (...) et à la volonté de rassembler tous les Français quelle que soit leur appartenance", a précisé le député et maire de Nantes. Il exhorte le gouvernement et la majorité à avoir "le même esprit d'ouverture et recherche avec tous les républicains la voie d'une loi qui libère et apaise".
Clear? Me neither. It seems that the Socialists believe that you're violating human rights if you tell women what they can wear without  raising concerns about violating their human rights; but if you do the same thing while expressing genuine concern and solicitude and a "spirit of openness and experimentation," then it's OK.

Defining the boundaries of the demos is bringing out contradictory impulses everywhere. In the US, Arizona has passed a law commanding police to ascertain the identity of anyone deemed suspect of being in the country illegally; Democrats, while deploring this law, have proposed issuing a national identity card, presumably so that such citizenship checks can be performed on an egalitarian rather than selective and racially-profiled basis. (They might look at countries such as France which already have national identity cards to see who is actually stopped in the subways by police looking to make sure that "papers are in order.") Repression thus wears two faces, one vindictive, the other somewhat more benign. For those on the receiving end, however, the distinction begs the question of the difference.

The Wisdom of Solomon

The Republic has a way of dealing with its prodigal sons. Charles Pasqua has been found guilty and given a one-year suspended sentence. His defense was that he was a dupe of his subordinates. His subordinates' defense was, Do you think we, Machiavelli's creatures, could have duped Machiavelli? Pasqua pleads imbecility, confident that no one will take him for an imbecile. A perfect crime, in which all the coupables are not responsables. Whodunit? The Zeitgeist.

Burqa Law

Here is Maître Eolas, excellent as usual, on the legal aspects of the proposed burqa ban.

The EU, Greece, and Sarkozy

The Times notes the invisibility of EU's new leaders on the Greek issue. The Lisbon treaty, its ink hardly dry, has thus been shown to have failed in one of its major objectives, to create a new point of international coordination. But no one really expected much of the present leadership, especially in the face of German intransigence. The puzzle is Sarkozy, who in the past was not bashful about asserting leadership even when he had no legal claim to it. After the relatively successful French EU presidency, he even proposed to continue as "virtual" leader in the absence of a real one. Although he has said the right things on the Greek debt issue, he hasn't pressed his point as forcefully as we know he might. This suggests two things: real fiscal constraints and anxiety that the French electorate isn't as passive as it seems. A more vocal push in favor of a larger bailout might risk triggering a backlash--the populist backlash whose absence in France I noted the other day--among precisely those voters who are slipping away from him most rapidly, those who have little patience for supporting supposedly profligate foreigners and who may have voted FN or sovereignist in the past. Sarkozy is protected on this issue by an elite consensus, but he knows full well that the elite consensus on the EU does not reflect popular sentiment (remember 2005!). He is the one who pushed through the Lisbon treaty despite the prior referendum, and the deeper the skepticism of the EU and the euro, the more his identification with Europe will become an electoral liability. So he has lowered his profile, in my estimation.

For a different view of the crisis and the EU role, see Judah Grunstein.