Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Electing an Economist

Raymond Barre, Giscard said in naming him prime minister, was "le meilleur économiste en France." It didn't endear him to the French. Neither did Giscard's own claimed competence in economics. On the other hand, Pierre Mendès France was also an economist of sorts, and his rigor in this realm earned him more than a little respect. By "economist" in this context I don't mean Paul Samuelson or John Maynard Keynes, just somebody who recognizes certain constraints on what is and is not feasible. There are times when voters appreciate the restraint that economic sobriety imposes, and other times when they don't. But it's not simply a matter of conjuncture whether they like to hear what the numerate economist has to say. He also has to convince them that the numbers are not merely decoys laid out to distract attention from distributional decisions made sotto voce.

This will be Dominique Strauss-Kahn's challenge, since he will be running, if he runs, in part on his credentials as an economist.  He has to make sure that this word means something other than "scold" or, worse, "tool of capital." On key economic issues, such as the necessity of retirement reform, his analysis is not very different from Sarkozy's. Hence he must take extra pains to prove that this analysis is only part of a broader vision of France's economic future that does differ in significant respects from his opponent's. This is a larger challenge than he has yet to acknowledge. It will be interesting to see how he meets it.

Conseiller en Com' Incompétent?

Now here's an interesting bit on the fabrication of a political image that didn't work out as planned:

En septembre dernier, Ramzi Khiroun s’est fait piéger par les équipes de Dimanche + , l’hebdo politique de Kaurence Ferrari sur Canal +. Hors champ mais micro allumé, il conseille à DSK d’aller à la FNAC devant les caméras et d’acheter certains disques, comme « Zidane il va marquer » pour son petit-fils. Résultat, DSK s’exécute… le plan com’ est démasqué. «Je reconnais pleinement que c’était une connerie de fabriquer cette histoire, même si Dominique va très souvent à la FNAC » , répond Khiroun aujourd’hui.
That story was published on Jan. 15, 2007. Now, what's interesting is that this same Ramzi Khiroun is still DSK's public relations advisor and also happens to be the fellow who lent him the Porsche that has been so much in the news lately. And he also works for Lagardere. One might almost think that he's out to singlehandedly sink DSK's candidacy.

Cf. Séguéla.

Bilan globalement ambigu

May 10, 30 years after. Two bilans très contrastés des années Mitterrand. Bizarrely, the good one is from a publication of the right, Causeur, the bad one from a publication of the left, Le Monde diplomatique.

Now that de Gaulle has been canonized, there are many in France who have no idea of why the election of Mitterrand might have been greeted as a liberation. For them, Jérôme Leroy's evocation of one of the darker sides of Gaullism, the Service d'Action Civique, is salutary:

SAC : Le service d’action civique. Quand Le juge Fayard d’Yves Boisset passait à la télé, on entendait un bip quand les acteurs parlaient du SAC. Cela faisait rigoler tout le monde car c’était l’exemple même de censure absurde qui donnait envie de se documenter. On apprenait qu’au départ, c’étaient des types plutôt courageux, anciens de la Résistance, qui protégeaient De Gaulle en contre-barbouzant l’OAS, avec les mêmes méthodes qu’elle. Assez étrangement, une fois la guerre d’Algérie terminée, le SAC a recyclé des anciens de l’OAS et s’est transformé en milice électorale spécialisée dans la chasse aux colleurs d’affiche de gauche et en milice patronale chargée de casser les grèves. L’élection de Mitterrand ayant troublé tout ce petit monde hystériquement anticommuniste, l’histoire du SAC s’est terminée assez salement pendant l’été 81 par la tuerie d’Auriol qui vit l’exécution par balles d’une famille de six personnes dont un enfant de sept ans. Le SAC a été interdit et dissous l’année suivante à l’Assemblée Nationale.

"36 15 j'existe"

On the left it's not news if someone attacks the "idle rich," but on the right it's big news when a minister attacks the "idle poor." And Laurent Wauquiez didn't just attack the recipients of the RSA; he called them a "cancer" and insisted that they do 5 hours of public service in return for their share of the dole. The father of the RSA, Martin Hirsch, was beyond livid on France2 last night; he was apoplectic. And at UMP HQ, they weren't so happy either:

"Wauquiez, c'est 36 15 j'existe", raille-t-on à l'unisson dans l'entourage du patron de l'UMP, Jean-François Copé, qui ne l'aime pas.
François Fillon was annoyed that a junior minister was questioning the official policy of his government. So it looks like this is a nonstarter, but what was it meant to be? A trial balloon? A test theme for the campaign? If so, could it have been handled worse? Since 2007 there have been a fair number of these kinds of gaffes.

P.S. If "36 15" means nothing to you, read this.

La Nostalgie n'est plus ce qu'elle était

Serge Moati:


Qu'évoque, à votre sens, le nom de Mitterrand chez les jeunes Français ?Si j'en crois mes enfants, pas grand-chose. Même s'ils aimeraient avoir vécu ce genre d'événement. Je ne crois pas qu'il y ait une immense nostalgie. Si nostalgie il y a, c'est la nostalgie de la ferveur. Le rapport entre le rêve et la réalité, l'utopie et le réalisme. Cette alchimie, que savait faire Mitterrand, est une recette qui manque. Pour les jeunes de maintenant, Mitterrand c'est loin.