Friday, March 21, 2014

Sarkozy Speaks

Nicolas Sarkozy has now counterattacked in l'affaire des écoutes. He compares France under Hollande, Taubira, and Valls to East Germany under Honecker and the Stasi or to a Third World dictatorship in which the dictator places his political rivals under surveillance. He complains that "world leaders" who might otherwise solicit his advice about this or that will now hesitate because they know his phones are tapped. He says nothing substantive about the various allegations of corruption, subornation of malfeasance, etc., that led to his being placed under surveillance, except that if his lawyer did contact the "respected jurist" who is believed to have leaked investigative documents without authorization, it was only to "seek advice" about how to defend his client from "a friend of thirty years' standing." Nor does he say that there was anything irregular about the procedures under which the taps were approved.

What to say about all this? I don't think allegations of corruption should be tried in the press or the blogosphere. I don't know if M. Sarkozy is guilty of the alleged crimes. I don't know if there were political motives behind any of the numerous investigations in which he is involved. I don't think the government has handled its public relations in this affair very well at all, but that is hardly the same thing as accusing it of breaking the law. And having said that, I will await further developments. There will be no shortage of loud and ill-informed voices speaking out on these matters, and I'd prefer not to be one of them.


Mitch Guthman said...

I also see no purpose in trying the many allegations of corruption against Sarkozy on the internet. Neither am I acquainted with how these things play out in France but I am familiar with the peculiar dance of public corruption prosecutions in America and my experience is that such counterattacks are usually a reliable indicator that the government very likely has a death grip on the squealing public official’s balls.

Sarkozy’s counterattack gives a real impression of desperation, as though he isn’t sure how much they’ve got but he’s tacitly acknowledging that what’s likely to be on the wiretaps/bugs could be devastating. And the reference to the “respected jurist” is disturbing because it makes me wonder if that isn’t an attempt to get ahead of a possibly very incriminating version of events that the “respected jurist” could provide if he felt the need, which is itself perhaps another tacit admission that the “jurist” might be under severe pressure to flip.

Sarkozy seemed to be just flailing about. I think attacking the judges and the government is a pretty desperate gamble. I don’t think he’s likely to scare anybody away from charging him if they think they got the goods but he has very much upped the ante for the judges because henceforth they’ll either look like corrupt political stooges or cowards if they don’t charge him. That makes them far more likely to pull the trigger.

And also far more likely to leak any unrelated but nasty stuff they’ve collected—and in that context, it’s important to remember that Sarkozy’s been under investigation for quite a few years and I’d bet serious money that the judges and police he’s just compared to the Stasi have accumulated a very tidy collection of unflattering information in that time. Merits of the charges aside, I don’t think this was a smooth move by Sarkozy.

Cincinna said...

The politically astute reaction to Sarkozy's OpEd, had it been rationally thought out, instead of emotionally generated, should have been to more or less ignore it. Instead, the Socialists reacted to a gnat with a nuke. They so fear and hate Sarko, they immediately, without serious thought, went berserk, and sent out their minions today in full court press, including the very weak and unconvincing M. Hollande. These people are scared to death. The idea that the entire force, every member of the Socialist government, and their lackeys in the press, to deal with this, shows just how fearful they are.
I wasn't there; I don't know what Sarkozy did or didn't do. He doesn't need me or anyone else to defend him. I did reread his entire paper, and he presents a brilliant personal and legal defense against the charges and insinuations against him, reminding all, that every accusation has petered out or ended in a non lieu. The surveillance of all his communications, even those with his wife and children, and in particular, those with his attorney, are very disturbing in a free society.
It is evident that Nicolas Sarkozy is playing chess on a very high multi-dimensional level, and François Hollande is otherwise pre-occupied, and unfocused, not even up to Chinese checkers.
He was always going to fight back. The fact that the PS risked forcing his hand three days before the municipal elections, speaks volumes about the state of their party.

Anonymous said...

I didn't find this op-ed brilliant. I found it typical of Sarkozy, confusing the issue but not addressing it, by adding insults to the mix.
However the choice of Stasi and the film was brilliant. Totally false and inflammatory, of course. But in the end, pointless. Plus, people seem to have gotten used to the idea due to the NSA practices being discussed for a year or so.
I remember some people privately saying in April-May 2012 "we must win -- otherwise, les affaires, la justice..." Apparently it's been well-known that Nicolas Sarkozy has quite a few "casseroles". The fact he bought a new cell phone proves he was aware that he was likely to be wiretapped. He was just outsmarted by justice.
As for where the leaks are from? According to Plenel, some people should wonder where they come from, and they "might even" realize they come "from the right"
(which, actually, makes sense.)
Perhaps quid pro quo from Buisson taking his revenge, or the same person who wants both Sarkozy and Buisson gone...?

Hilary Barnes said...

Many agree that Sarkozy looks like a Hungarian chicken thief. Many would go so far as to say that therefore he must be a chicken thief. Some think this is justification enough for putting the vigilantes on his trail. But despite Sarkozy's appearance (not his fault he has Hungarian grandparents on one side), perhaps he is not a chicken thief after all. France's powerful investigating magistrates, after years of trying, have not come up with any evidence that is a chicken thief, even after using techniques usually reserved for suspected terrorist cases of non-stop telephone tapping of him and his lawyer for months on end.Nobody would be surprised if this was happening in Putin's Russia, but some are surprised that it is happening in France.Le Monde was outraged when official France tried to look at a list of the phone calls of a Le Monde journalist to track down the source of stories that were embarrassing the government (Sarkozy's), but appears perfectly happy with a far more flagrant breach of the respect for the rights of the individual that France is supposed to give its citizens - see Declaration of Human Rights of 1789, which is still basis of French law on these matters.

Mitch Guthman said...

@ Hilary Barnes,

What you say about Sarkozy have been under investigation for so many crimes over so many years puts me in mind of the fall of John Gotti. He was nicknamed the “teflon don” because he was tried for many crimes but he was never convicted until after the government was able to wiretap him; that is to say, the charges would never stick, hence the nickname. He was brought down in large part because of his big mouth and wiretaps.

The parallel is this: Gotti didn’t beat these raps because he was innocent, because he had good lawyers or was an all round nice guy. What Gotti’s big mouth revealed on his wiretaps was that he’d won acquittal after acquittal by corrupting the judicial system with bribes and threats. Now, we’re hearing much the same pattern emerging in the legally obtained wiretaps of Sarkozy, as he is revealed to have stayed one step ahead of the law all these years through exerting corrupt influence on those whose duty was to enforce it.

All of which brings to mind a quote from Guys and Dolls, which captures the absurdity of pointing out how many times Sarkozy has been able to thwart justice as proof of his innocence. When giving testimony at a prayer meting he’s been forced to attend, the character Big Julie, a notorious Chicago gangster loudly proclaims how he’s changed his evil ways, saying: “Well, I used to be bad when I was a kid, but ever since then I've gone straight, as has been proved by my record: Thirty-three arrests and no convictions!”