Wednesday, June 27, 2007

An Active Sage


Laurent Fabius, in an interview with Le Monde, defines for himself a new role within the Socialist Party as "active sage." Party activists are furious with the leadership, he says, for occupying themselves with potshots at one another rather than with the renovation of the party. Hence he will refrain from participating in the daily sniping. Yet he couldn't restrain himself from slipping several daggers into Ségolène Royal, whom he finds guilty of having squandered a five-point lead at the time of her nomination and turning it into a three-point deficit by the date of the election. If only she had been as nimble as he in exposing the treacherous social TVA in his televised exchange with Fillon, she would have done so much better, he implies.

He goes on, sagely but actively, not to say aggressively, to accuse the candidate of combining three debilitating defects: she was neither presidential nor credible nor collegial. His response to a question about the controversial platform plank to increase the SMIC to 1500 euros raises doubts about his own credibility, however, since what he now defends in retrospect is the idea of a coup de pouce to the SMIC (for further explanation, see here), not an increase to any specific number. Evidently, the figure "1500" is now to be interpreted as merely symbolic. Still, he claims, Royal has now called into question her "sincerity" by retrospectively exposing this subterfuge. To an objective observer, however, it might seem that the sincerity of the party colleagues with whom she was allegedly so "uncollegial" is equally in question for having remained silent about the unreality of the figure throughout the campaign. (The figure was certainly unreal, because it would have granted a 50-percent wage increase to 17 percent of private sector workers overnight.)

In the course of his sagacious musings, the active sage also takes credit for the transformation of the European Constitution into a so-called simplified mini-treaty, which in reality he rightly finds quite complicated yet nevertheless an improvement over the rejected Constitution, to the defeat of which he contributed with his advocacy of a "no" vote against the wishes of a majority of his own party. Yet he is equivocal about whether he will actually support the "improved" product.

In all, a characteristically perfidious performance by Fabius, once a favorite of Mitterrand's and now apparently the heir to le Florentin's collection of daggers and stilettos. If this is what it means to be a "sage" in politics, it is no wonder that voters prefer the bare-knuckled, plain-spoken manner of the man they elected, who, unlike Laurent Fabius, admitted to dreaming of the presidency even when he wasn't shaving.

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