Monday, July 16, 2007

Royal Self-Criticism, Sarko Self-Limitation

Ségolène Royal is reportedly organizing a meeting of friends--"only friends," says Libé--to consider the reasons for her loss. Some of these friends, to judge by the quotes in the article, have decidedly barbed comments on the campaign, but none spoke on the record. Of course there is no indication in the article, either, that the people quoted are among the 120 invited to the self-criticism session. If I were Libé's editor, I would have spiked this piece. I would also have redlined the following barbarisms: quelque peu cornerisé, officialisation de sa rupture avec François Hollande, son staff, OPA sur le parti, actualisation du logiciel socialiste. The Ministry of Immigration and National Identity has proposed making mastery of proper French a requirement for legal immigrant status. Maybe they ought to raid the offices of Libé.

Meanwhile, cornerisé in another corner of the media, Sarko appeared on FR2 on July 14 and set a ratings record. Asked whether he would appear on stage with Michel Polnareff, Sarko declined to carry his modernization of the presidency--or should I say actualisation du logiciel gaullo-présidentialiste--to Clintonian lengths: "I will not sing, I will not dance, I will not appear on stage." Nor would he play the sax. There are, apparently, limits to what Libé would call la hyperprésidence. This neologism, which has served for weeks now as a substitute for reflective comment on institutional change, is obviously an extension of the critique of the candidate as hyperactif.

The implication that the candidate was suffering from a behavioral disorder was presumably not intended as a compliment. In retrospect, however, it seems that while he may be hyperactive, he does not suffer from any attention deficit. He seems to be attending to everything, including next year's Bastille Day celebration, which is already in the works.

This president will not be cornerisé dans une tour d'ivoire. Though I do think I heard him say--perhaps it was a trick of the ear--that he would not permit himself to be trapped dans un tour d'ivoire--masculinizing the noun in his own image, I guess, just as he allowed himself to comment on the "beauty" of the women on the perron of the Elysée. Perhaps the Ministry of National Identity ought to look into this case of presidential gender-bending, if my ears didn't deceive me.

Though Sarko would no doubt get a pass for having done so much to emphasize that the European Union is a federation of nations--this was the point of the multinational and highly colorful military parade and multinational musical celebration. Each constituent nation belongs to Europe yet retains its distinctive identity, the president said--and the images of the day all reinforced his words--thereby reassuring any of his countrymen who might be worried that his concessions to the EU risked one iota of national sovereignty or cultural identity. And surely the choice of Michel Polnareff as pop icon was all the reassertion of la vieille France that was needed. It would be hard to imagine Polnareff, now somewhat monté en graine, as the icon of any other nation.

Sarko also compared the presidency to le Tour de France--he got that one right, but then the Tour is already a thoroughly masculine event, and he was reminding his interviewer, M. Delahousse, that the tough étapes, the mountain climbs, still lay ahead of him. A lucid comment, and a welcome corrective to the breeziness of the questioning, which seemed to imply that the next five years would all be like this first Sarkozyan Bastille Day, une course contre la montre won handily by an admirably conditioned athlete zooming from start to finish on flat ground, without competition, and at a pace set exclusively by his own inner clock.


kirkmc said...

Hmmm... I'd think hyperprésidence is more related to hyperpuissance (the usual moniker for the US), Sarkozy being seen as a more "American-style" president.

This said, I have often wondered whether Sarkozy has some kind of illness or condition - perhaps migraines or something. Occasionally, he lets go and you see an expression on his face, or a way of moving, that looks a bit weird.

Anonymous said...

actualisation du logiciel gaullo-présidentialiste -- is perfect.

and your assessment of his performance during that interview -- ditto.

i used to think i was the only person in the US who watches the french news.


Anonymous said...

Kirkmc's comment is an interesting one: "hyperpuissance," as it relates to "hyperprésidence." Hyper as a prefix, from the Greek, is meant to suggest "over, beyond, or above." Comparative historical examples of real hyperpresidentialism are found in Yeltsin and Hindenburg - who often acted "over, beyond, or above" their constitutions. Sarkozy might seem hyperactive, but so far he hasn't exhibited any signs of hyperpresidentialism, at least in this comparative sense. Moreover, where we have seen it - Russia often since '91, Germany in the late '20s - it's out of a position of "impuissance" rather than "puissance" that these hyperpresidencies have come about, as presidents tried to bypass legislatures, courts, and other democratic institutions when these institutions questioned or even blocked presidential decisions. Given the political landscape of France's institutions right now, Sarkozy is far from having any such check to his power (impuissance), so I would think that a turn toward hyperpresidentialism seems unlikely as long as these institutions remain so bleu.

Anonymous said...

If the mountain climbs are indeed some of the most difficult étapes of the Tour, and if the analogy with the presidency is a correct one, we should note the full irony: team leaders usually designate other members of the team to, essentially, exhaust themselves for the mountain climbs. If they win the polka dot jersey, terrific. If not, the team leader has conserved most of his energy for the rest of the Tour, and the final, important victory. Prime ministers under the French constitution, and individual ministers more generally, are not unlike those designated for the mountain climbs.

kirkmc said...

To continue that analogy, Sarkozy is going to be at the Tour de France today (Tuesday) as it crosses one of the highest mountains, and arrives in Briancon (near where I live). So he seems to be a man who makes his metaphors concrete!