Thursday, May 17, 2012

B+ or Incomplete?

After reading the Mediapart reportage on the Ayrault government, Arun Kapil raised his grade from B+/B to unambiguous B+ (see links in two previous posts). I had the opposite reaction. What does it matter if the government includes a dynamic nanotechnologist or an outspoken proponent of gay rights if it fails to articulate a clear position on the major issue of the day, which is the "euro crisis"? I put the words "euro crisis" in scare quotes to indicate that this is shorthand for a whole host of other issues: How to revamp EU institutions, how to redress internal European imbalances, how to enhance the competitiveness of French firms to that end, how to redistribute the gains from global trade more fairly, etc. etc.

What I see in the Ayrault government is exactly what I saw in 11 years of Hollande leadership of the Socialist Party: a meticulous distribution of rewards among competing currents with no attempt to make a judgment about the ultimate purpose of the power that is so carefully subdivided. So, Fabius, as Arun puts it, still has a substantial "coterie" of support within the party; better to keep him on board. Montebourg got 17% of the primary vote, so invent a ministry for him. Lots of Socialists voted No in 2005, so put Cazeneuve in charge of European affairs, and don't worry about the symbolism of the Fabius-Cazeneuve tandem because Ayrault speaks German and is the boss man anyway. And if the No faction was a reaction against the overemphasis on liberalism in the "social liberal" current of the party, balance that off by putting Economy and Finance in the hands of Moscovici, who is un tantinet more liberal than the president himself.

This idea of politics as fine-tuning, careful calibration, and sage counterbalancing is, I submit, what kept the Socialist Party out of power at the national level from 1995 to 2012. It is what the old Hollande stood for, which I hoped the new Hollande had left behind. The presidency is the summit from which one hands down the tablets, but instead of writing a new Bible, Hollande seems intent on weaving the old traditions together into a syncretic compromise. This is not the time. He must choose.

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

Art, see my response in the 3rd update in my post.

Arun

Art Goldhammer said...

I didn't give him a B-! I gave him an Incomplete. I'm waiting to see what the paper looks like when he actually turns in his work. As for balancing being found in every government in the known universe, yes, of course, I'm not quite the political bonehead you take me to be. But when balancing becomes the be-all and end-all of politics, you get indirection and failure, which is what you got from Hollande as party leader. That's why I'm particularly hard on him, because I'm waiting for a statement of direction. Yes, it's unfair, but I think the heat should be kept on. And asking me to substitute my own government is equally unfair. I don't have the range of contacts Hollande does. But for starters I would have gone outside Socialist ranks for a Minister of Economy and Finance and looked for an economist with a strong grasp of the fundamental currency and trade issues.

Anonymous said...

You did indeed give him an incomplete. I stand corrected. My grade was simply on the composition of his government, not 'la suite'. And I was not taking you personally for a political bonehead, rest assured.

As for going outside the ranks for an economy minister, Pascal Lamy and Louis Gallois were floated as possibilities. Perhaps they were contacted but declined. Who knows? I ultimately don't think it matters that much. As for economists with a strong grasp of currency and trade issues, there are plenty of them who will be advising Hollande and the government. They don't need to be *in* the government.

Arun

Massilian said...

I am no entomologist and no expert in what all the people now in charge of the government represented previously in the PS anthill. IMHO I believe that in their new functions and responsabilities, now that they are truly in charge with the real situation, they may very well change, evolve, become different, possibly transcend the previous classification. In my personal and professional experience I know that when I had to face new, different and more challenging responsabilities, I evolved and adapted to my new situation. It doesn't mean that the government was not composed with a pharmacist scale, it means that from now on the company is alive, at sea and facing a new ecosystem (at least for a month...). Excuse the rough analogies.

FrédéricLN said...

"This idea of politics as fine-tuning, careful calibration, and sage counterbalancing is, I submit, what kept the Socialist Party out of power at the national level from 1995 to 2012. It is what the old Hollande stood for, which I hoped the new Hollande had left behind."

Agree with that. But many of these Ministers are people I just don't know. Perhaps we will have many good surprises. And perhaps Moscovici has ideas about how to solve the crisis. Perhaps.

FrédéricLN said...

"This idea of politics as fine-tuning, careful calibration, and sage counterbalancing is, I submit, what kept the Socialist Party out of power at the national level from 1995 to 2012. It is what the old Hollande stood for, which I hoped the new Hollande had left behind."

Agree with that. But many of these Ministers are people I just don't know. Perhaps we will have many good surprises. And perhaps Moscovici has ideas about how to solve the crisis. Perhaps.

Anonymous said...

Surely this kind of fine-tuning and bringing all factions inside the tent is the Mitterrand legacy. All ministers will have to follow Hollande's policy platform, which is pro-European and not wildly anti-globalisation.

Isn't Hollande simply doing the same with Fabius/Cazeneuve and Montebourg as Mitterrand did with Rocard, Chevenement etc? You bring your rivals inside and make them swallow their principles and work to your agenda. Better to have them inside the tent, as LBJ said of J. Edgar Hoover. You know the rest of that quotation.

Hollande probably hoped to neutralise Martine Aubry that way too, but she stood on her pride.

Daniel said...

The Parti Socialiste was not out of power at the national level from 1995 to 2012. As you know, they were the governing party from 1997 to 2002. (Hard to tell the CMU and PACS otherwise...) That's 33% of the time in question, not negligeable certainly.

Anonymous said...

The ministers must give a direction and manage their teams, especially be able to work with experts. But first of all, they must "symbolize" and "represent". And this, they do extremely well.

Most friends with a leftist bend are giving this government an A or even an A+: first, they can't believe that we have a government where everyone's competent and chosen because they know their stuff (whether they belong to this or that party 'current' doesn't matter to them), because it "looks like France" (and not just token choices - Rachida Dati was wholly unqualified for her job and chosen as a "token" diversity minister: a great symbol but ultimately a bad choice. Since I've liked Taubira since I've heard her talk, I'm gratified she was chosen for Justice.) They're happy because there are 17 women - many thought Sarkozy's 35% would be the maximum ever reached-, because they like the "balance" and because Hollande kept his word on something they thought impossible. Overall, they're enthusiastic or hopeful.
Nobody thinks in terms of "euro crisis", which they believe will not be solved by one minister but by everyone together.

Anonymous said...

The ministers must give a direction and manage their teams, especially be able to work with experts. But first of all, they must "symbolize" and "represent". And this, they do extremely well.

Most friends with a leftist bend are giving this government an A or even an A+: first, they can't believe that we have a government where everyone's competent and chosen because they know their stuff (whether they belong to this or that party 'current' doesn't matter to them), because it "looks like France" (and not just token choices - Rachida Dati was wholly unqualified for her job and chosen as a "token" diversity minister: a great symbol but ultimately a bad choice. Since I've liked Taubira since I've heard her talk, I'm gratified she was chosen for Justice.) They're happy because there are 17 women - many thought Sarkozy's 35% would be the maximum ever reached-, because they like the "balance" and because Hollande kept his word on something they thought impossible. Overall, they're enthusiastic or hopeful.
Nobody thinks in terms of "euro crisis", which they believe will not be solved by one minister but by everyone together.