Friday, April 8, 2011
Claude Guéant has evidently become President Sarkozy's "designated hitter" when it comes to immigration. Yesterday, he repudiated the official policy of l'immigration choisie, saying that with so many unemployed in France, even legal immigration would have to be reduced. But today Christian Lagarde went after him, noting that immigration of certain types of workers was and would continue to be an economic necessity. Since the coexistence of unemployment at home with the importation of workers from abroad is difficult for some people to grasp, one can expect Marine Le Pen to make use of this controversy. One has to wonder how much of Guéant's performance has been deliberate and how much is due simply to the clumsiness of a political neophyte. Nevertheless, public disagreement between ministers looks bad, and Sarkozy will have to decide how he wants to play this issue as we move into the election season. For the moment, he can let Guéant rattle on, but at some point he will have to defend all of these dérapages in his own name or else repudiate them. Either way, he makes himself vulnerable. The whole strategy seems unusually clumsy for Sarkozy, who may lack other qualities but has generally been a canny political tactician.