When I wrote about the oddity of watching Audrey Pulvar, Arnaud Montebourg's companion, grill Martine Aubry on On n'est pas couché, a commenter remarked that Pulvar's confrontation with Ségolène Royal in a subsequent broadcast was stranger still. That program only recently aired in the US (TV5Monde), and I have to agree: Pulvar's approach to Royal was inquisitorial. She seemed almost angry, scowling at times when Royal managed to evade what Pulvar hoped would be a devastating question. But Natacha Polony was even more aggressive, accusing Royal of undermining authority in the classroom and valuing the word of the child above that of the teacher--an inversion that led, Polony charged, to false accusations of pedophilia.
The whole line of questioning was outrageously unfair and defamatory, and I must say I was impressed by Royal's poise throughout the dual onslaught from Ruquier's Gorgons, who are apparently out to prove that they can be as tough as Naulleau and Zemmour. They have thus far proven that they can be equally rude, though not equally wide in their range of reference, be it political, literary, or historical.
In any case, I was also impressed by Royal's dignity when interviewed by David Pujadas on France2 a few days after her defeat. She was announcing her support for Hollande, and Pujadas asked the question that I suppose he had to ask, despite its goujaterie: Was she backing her ex-companion, the father of her children, for reasons of the heart or the head? It's curious how the French, who so often lecture us Amerloques on our indiscriminate mixing of private and public matters, can invoke affairs of the heart when it suits them. In 2007, of course, the argument was the reverse: feelings between Hollande and Royal were so bitter, it was rumored, that the former withheld the party's support from the latter out of spite. Now, it's supposed to be lingering affection that orients the loser's endorsement. But Royal quietly insisted that it was simply a matter of "political intelligence," which after all is what her supporters looked to her for. (Or perhaps, disent les mauvaises langues, she hates Aubry, who cheated her out of the party leadership, even more than she hates her ex.)
Ségolène Royal has often aroused intense hatred. She has been derided as "stupid," "intemperate," "unpredictable," and "flighty." She has certainly made mistakes, but I think she deserves better than this. She successfully infused flesh and blood into a party that had been drained of both by the reign of the énarques. She was one of them, but apparently the only one who understood that unremitting technocratic sobriety had driven a wedge between the party and its base. Now the sober-sided are back in control. But they should take the 24% of the primary vote that went to Royal and Montebourg as a warning. These were the two candidates who dared on occasion to abandon the chiffré and talk to people of everyday matters. If their gifts are not used in the campaign, it will be a mistake. Royal is an asset that other Socialists mock at their peril.