Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Sarkozy's Press Conference

I didn't see all of it, but in what I did see he came off as more disagreeable than usual, blaming the media for "forcing" him to make an issue of the Roma by playing up the supposed climate of insecurity; challenging his interlocutors to credit him with "at least average intelligence" in order to sidestep a question about spying on journalists; exalting himself ("You can ask that question only because you've never been head of state, have you?") and diminishing them ("Do you really think, David Pujadas, that the head of state should become involved when one of your colleagues loses his laptop?"); and, in general, showing off his alpha dog traits--to the point of baring his teeth at one moment--and absence of humor.

But just to make him look good, I guess, he was followed more or less immediately (if you ignore the banalities uttered by Alain Duhamel) by Ségolène Royal, who rattled on at interminable length to the great annoyance of Arlette Chabot. Ségo did her best to remind voters of what they found irritating about her: repetitiveness, lack of focus, illogic, and simply not knowing when to stop. And then the attack dogs--Baroin and Moscovici--went after each other. I suppose it's no wonder that France winds up with an alpha dog for president when the training ground for politicians is this variety of snarling in front of the cameras. Baroin and Mosco are perhaps the sleekest of the brood, capable of drawing blood with quick snaps and without breaking a sweat.

In contrast, Bayrou seemed calm and collected and might have passed for thoughtful, ensconced as he was in an office filled with books, except that he couldn't refrain from dismissing his would-be centrist rivals as Johnny-come-latelies who, unlike himself, had failed to shun the Sarkozyan virus at the beginning of the plague. On the whole it was a dispiriting evening, though I did enjoy Marine Le Pen's pose in front of some handsome antiques, as well as her blouse, which coruscated nicely under the TV lighting. She was not quite as pointlessly garrulous as Ségolène but she did go on, without, alas, her father's pungent way with the language--a gift that got him in trouble as often as not but at least made him occasionally interesting to watch.

Oh, yes, almost forgot: the substance. So, we're going to get rid of the wealth tax and the tax shield and replace the whole shebang with some kind of capital gains and capital income tax. The devil, as they say, is in the details. And by now we've learned that 'twixt the Sarkozyan  announcement and the final legislation, "stuff happens." For instance, just today, the Assembly voted to retain advertising during the day on the state TV networks. Scrapping part of another presidential initiative. So why try to read the tea leaves? Just wait and see what comes out of the eventual bargaining with the various forces within the UMP.

A Centrist Primary?

Jean Arthuis is calling for a centrist primary. Morin, Borloo, Bayrou: all see themselves as présidentiables du centre. Even Villepin might declare himself a centrist. Arthuis suggests that there is no "natural" leader of the center, any more than of the left or right. Election rather than self-proclamation should prevail. But who will organize such a primary? Under what rules? The details will very likely determine the outcome, so they matter.

Flash!

Le "repas gastronomique des Français" a été inscrit au patrimoine immatériel de l'humanité

Les experts de l'Unesco réunis à Nairobi, au Kenya, ont estimé que le repas gastronomique à la française, avec ses rituels et sa présentation, remplissait les conditions pour rejoindre la "liste du patrimoine culturel immatériel de l'humanité". (AFP)

Hmmm. This is worthy of a news flash? 

The Euro

Last week at Harvard, I listened to a number of experts debate the future of the euro. The panel was generally upbeat. This morning's headline, not so much:

Europe Fears That Debt Crisis Is Ready to Spread


Spain is the big enchilada here: 20% unemployment, 9% deficit. And French banks are believed to hold a lot of Spanish debt. Fasten your seatbelts.

Van Rompuy's comment on the situation here.

That Didn't Take Long

Eric Woerth, out of the government for one day, has a new headache:

Eric Woerth cité devant la Cour de justice de la République

Le procureur général près la Cour de cassation a demandé à la Cour de justice de la République d'ouvrir une enquête sur Eric Woerth pour favoritisme et prise illégale d'intérêts. M. Woerth était intervenu en qualité de ministre du budget pour que l'Etat vende une parcelle de la forêt de Compiègne (Oise) à la Société des courses de Compiègne. (AFP et Reuters)
Interesting. I had thought that the racetrack affair was the least of his problems. No doubt this explains why he was dismissed.