This stunt would merely have made him a leading candidate for the weekly roi des cons award. After all, what politician has not at one time or another urged his fellow citizens to "buy home rather than abroad." But the European Commission, ever vigilant for apostates from the Church of Free Trade, could not resist the opportunity to turn this non-event into une danse des cons:
Le commissaire européen au commerce, Karel de Gucht, critique le protectionnisme prôné par le ministre du redressement productif, Arnaud Montebourg, et rejette la surveillance des exportations sud-coréennes réclamée par Paris dans une interview publié mardi 23 octobre par Le Figaro.Well, it's perhaps difficult for a Belgian to comprehend economic nationalism, since Belgium is an experiment in survival as an economy without polity. But Montebourg's Monoprix photo op is the small beer of economic nationalism, nothing compared with Villepin's adventures in this arena. When it comes time for the Socialists to choose a new standard bearer, we will see which of today's contenders has chosen the more successful strategy. Will it be Montebourg's parlaying of a nothing ministry into an instrument for staging a presence in a bewildering variety of contexts? Or will it be Valls's more severely classical dramatization of the role of minister of the interior as guarantor of the ordinary citizen's security? Or Moscovici's epicurean self-delight at having graduated to the cour des grands, where he can pose as serious steward of the nation's finances? Or someone else entirely. Some student of French presidentialism should collect the high points of each man's parcours: we are being given an education in the uses of various portfolios in presidential image-making.
"Monsieur Montebourg s'affiche contre la mondialisation, il est protectionniste, c'est un choix. Mais son raisonnement ne tient pas la route. La France ne peut pas, seule, redistribuer les cartes du commerce mondial.", a estimé M. de Gucht, de nationalité belge.
Indeed, I would go even farther and say that Hollande's failure to build an image of himself as president prior to assuming office has proved a handicap now that he is in it. He seems not quite sure of his marks, as one would say in the theater, and inevitably looks slightly out of place whenever he tries to fill the stage.