Saturday, October 27, 2007

Sarko Chez les Cheminots

If you watched the TV news last night, you saw President Sarkozy in a heated exchange with workers at a railway repair facility. What you didn't see was a statement that Sarko made that went well beyond the current negotiating position of his minister: he pledged that benefit reductions for workers not contributing the full forty years required under the new regime would apply only to new hires, not existing workers. The workers surrounding Sarkozy reacted with immediate astonishment. They knew the dossier better than he, or else he was putting a new offer on the table without having let anyone know in advance.

The unedited clip including the remarkable Sarkozy statement can be viewed here. You'll enjoy the president's jutting chin and finger-to-the-sternum dialog with his hard-hatted interlocutors.

Europe? What Europe?

The question of whether to ratify the Lisbon treaty will not be addressed at today's meeting of the PS National Council. "Everyone has agreed not to talk about it," said Stéphane Le Foll, Hollande's no. 2. Pierre Moscovici, who favors a "critical yes," is nevertheless willing to back Benoît Hamon's "constructive abstention." But he's not going to talk about it either. Everyone's goal is to "make sure that the party comes down on a position that doesn't increase tensions," Le Foll said.

While thus avoiding the major issue of Europe, the National Council will nevertheless find time to hear the reports of no fewer than three "committees on renovation." Evidently the "renovation" of the party does not require taking positions on major issues even if they do increase tensions. American Democrats are familiar with the syndrome. They are also familiar with the result: repeated losses. Of course the PS doesn't need the American example to learn that lesson. But it doesn't seem able to profit from its failures.