Thursday, March 10, 2011

Denying Sarko 3 Times Before the Cock Crows



Apparently, candidates of the Right are pretending not to belong to the UMP for fear that Sarkozy's unpopularity will doom their chances.

Reckless

President Sarkozy's unilateral declaration of war on Libya is shockingly reckless. It was also astonishing to see on television tonight Alain Juppé's utter surprise, in Brussels, on learning the news, which was announced on the steps of the Élysée by ... Bernard-Henri Lévy. In short, Sarkozy is treating war as he might treat a crime by a recently released prisoner: he's gone off half-cocked, without consultation with his European partners, and announced that, no matter what anyone else thinks, he's going to make things right. The Lisbon Treaty seems to have been forgotten. The united European foreign policy seems to have been scuttled. And make no mistake: France's partners are mightily disturbed. Angela Merkel has issued a blistering statement about Germany having no wish to be dragged into a war on the side of a revolutionary committee whose membership is not even known in Berlin at this time.

It's really quite flabbergasting behavior for a head of state. Even Bush observed more forms before rushing into war. And whether France has the means to redeem the promises it has made to the rebels remains to be seen. Did Sarkozy even talk to his generals, or was BHL his only authority on the capabilities of the French Air Force?

ADDENDUM: A different point of view in the Times:


In a rare piece of encouraging news for the opposition, France on Thursday became the first country to recognize the opposition leadership and said it would soon exchange ambassadors with the movement in Benghazi. The move put France ahead of the United States and other European powers seeking ways to support the opposition.
France’s stance was viewed as a savvy gesture to show commitment to the uprisings and wave of protests in the Middle East and North Africa after President Nicolas Sarkozy admitted Paris was slow to recognize the strength of the movements in Egypt and Tunisia. It might also position France favorably in future oil deals if the opposition movement somehow manages to expel Colonel Qaddafi and take control of the country.
On the other hand, European partners continue to be unhappy.

Birnbaum on Jacob and Populist Rhetoric More Generally

Pierre Birnbaum, whose book Un récit de "meurtre rituel" au Grand Siècle I happen to be in the midst of translating, has this to say about Christian Jacob's recent dérapage concerning Dominique Strauss-Kahn:


Pierre Birnbaum : Il ne s'agit pas de s'indigner des propos de M. Jacob, mais simplement d'essayer de les replacer dans le cadre politique d'aujourd'hui et de voir ce qu'ils ajoutent, au fond, au débat contemporain qui tourne autour de la question du populisme, lancé par les interventions de M. Mélenchon.
Dans un cas comme dans l'autre, au nom d'une entité globale qui est supposée être celle du peuple, ou au nom de l'identité des terroirs, on remet en question la candidature d'une personnalité politique qui a quitté le terroir depuis quelques années pour siéger à la direction du FMI, dont le siège est aux Etats-Unis.
Donc, il s'ensuit une sorte de nuage de métaphores, qui englobe une dénonciation des élites, du libéralisme économique, des Etats-Unis, et, par-delà, de l'argent. En réalité, c'est bien cela qui est visé : la vieille opposition entre la terre et l'argent, d'autant plus que M. Strauss-Kahn règne à la tête du FMI, chargée précisément de la stabilisation des affaires financières mondiales.
Pour en revenir aux propos de M. Jacob, qu'il faut analyser de près, on ne peut que constater qu'il emploie une rhétorique, qu'il en soit conscient ou non, fortement ancrée dans l'imaginaire politique français, à laquelle recourent surtout les droites radicales, mais que ne dédaigne pas du tout l'extrême gauche, influencée elle aussi par un discours populiste davantage que par une lecture marxiste du monde.

Libya: Grave Secret?

France is the first country to recognize the rebels as the true "government" of Libya, which is giving a rather generous interpretation to the word "government." Meanwhile, Kadhafi has struck back by threatening to reveal a "grave secret" that will lead to the downfall of Sarkozy:

Le régime libyen a affirmé jeudi 10 mars, via son agence officielle, que la révélation d'un "grave secret" allait entraîner la chute du président français Nicolas Sarkozy, peu après la reconnaissance par Paris du Conseil national de transition comme représentant du peuple libyen. L'agence officielle libyenne Jana a annoncé avoir"appris qu'un grave secret va entraîner la chute de Sarkozy, voire son jugement en lien avec le financement de sa campagne électorale".
Who knows? I suppose it's entirely possible that he knows something embarrassing. As far as I'm concerned, the fact that BHL was "present" during the president's conversation with rebel leaders is embarrassing enough. What was the point of replacing Kouchner if you're going to substitute BHL?

No Primary?

Marine Le Pen certainly has stood the political world on its head. The latest aftershock of the Harris poll earthquake has hit the Socialist Party. Many voices that once called for a primary as a way to resolve internal differences and head into the presidential elections with a united front are now saying that the party needs to get its act together at once, even if it means dispensing with the primaries and rallying around a single candidate as soon as possible.

I'm afraid that the decision to put off a decision as long as possible now appears to have been a major blunder, but I'm not sure that dispensing with the primary will go down well at this point. It was presented as a democratic move, so a return to the smoke-filled room will inevitably seem anti-democratic. And I suspect that within the smoke-filled room, disunity is greater than it is outside. Which of these outsized egos will step aside in the name of party unity? Who can promise what to whom? In any case, panic seems to be spreading everywhere.

ADDENDUM: Laurent Joffrin on the same subject.

Les classes populaires

The other day I wrote "les classes populaires, comme on dit." I left the term in French because it has no equivalent in English. It ought to. As Bernard Girard explains here, it is not synonymous with "workers." He goes on to say a lot more that's worth knowing in response to Nicolas Demorand's editorial in Libé berating the Left for failing to find the magic formula to appeal to this group, which in Bernard's view should really be analyzed as three groups. Read him.