Monday, December 31, 2007

Attitudes on Trade

Everyone knows that the French are by and large hostile to globalization while "Anglo-Saxon neo-liberals" are for it. But conventional wisdom will have a hard time explaining what has happened to the Anglo-Saxons according to these polling data.

This Year's Version

And here are Sarko's New Year's greetings. It was an echt Sarkozyan performance: pugnacious, delivered rapidly with consummate self-assurance, filled with signature formulas, in your face. The usual hallmarks of Henri Guaino's style were abundantly on display, especially the characteristic anaphora: Je pense à vous ..., À ceux qui ..., Urgence de .... (e. g. here). This technique of marking each point by insistent repetition of an introductory phrase seems molded to Sarkozy's personality: it's a punchy style, a way of establishing a firm rhythm, a pulse that raises the expectation of a point to come and thus slightly deflects attention from the point being made at the moment, as if to ensure that none of the glittering generalities--"a politics of civilization"--will come in for uncomfortably close scrutiny. There was a rather unpleasant smugness to the speech: if you think I didn't do enough, I nevertheless did everything it was possible to do; if you think I did too much, you've refused to face squarely the predicament we're in.

Le style, c'est l'homme même--Buffon (that's him in the picture, not Sarko)

Since Ségolène Royal claims that her bourdes were magnified by the press while Sarkozy's were played down, it should be noted that Sarko made one rather remarkable pataquès: "... pour que les mesures mise-t-en-oeuvre puissent ..." But this is merely the continuation of a long tradition:
Pour parler en littérature aristocratiquement des êtres et des choses, il ne connaît que Chateaubriand et moi, (...) les autres commettent à tout moment des pataquès effroyables (Goncourt, Journal, 1888, p.794).

The New Year's Greeting

In a couple of hours Nicolas Sarkozy will sacrifice to a peculiarly French presidential ritual: he will offer his New Year's greetings to the French. In an innovation intended to add a Sarkozyan fillip to this starchy annual rite, he will broadcast live. One can compare his performance with presidential greetings past on this site. Note, in particular, the long Giscard sequence, which shows the careful preparation of the shots and angles, the application of makeup to poor Anne-Aymone, who is clearly unaccustomed to the limelight, and the homely touch of Giscard's getting up to straighten the pictures on the mantelpiece. His first take is delivered as though he were reading to kindergarteners, at a painfully slow tempo. The final take is a little better. Surprisingly, of all the presidents pictured, Georges Pompidou seems most comfortable with the camera. Mitterrand, leaning forward toward the lens, tries to dominate rather than seduce. Chirac is of course hopeless--his discomfort in front of the camera was one of his liabilities as president. Like Lyndon Johnson, his political gifts, such as they were, were better suited to other settings.

Jealousy, the Green-Eyed Monster

André Santini, one of the right's more colorful rogues, proposes the novel theory that criticism from the left of Sarkozy's high-flying vacation with his high-style paramour is due entirely to "jealousy." After all, what's the beef? "The president took only a few days off, and his vacation was financed in part by the businessman Vincent Bolloré, so it didn't cost the taxpayers a cent."

This is the sort of fine ethical judgment one would expect from a politician who in 2006 was indicted along with Charles Pasqua in the Hamon Foundation Affair: wealthy sculpture collector Jean Hamon had a museum built to hold his collection in Issy-les-Moulineaux, the town of which Santini is mayor. Public funds went into the project, and Santini is charged with having acquired an "illegal interest" in a business connected with the construction. He also serves as secretary of state for civil service under the minister of the budget.

A chrestomathy of pungent quotes attributed to the Bard of Issy can be savored here. Sample: "The difference between a cuckold and a deputy is that the cuckold isn't obliged to attend the session."

Santini also enjoys the distinction of being the founder of a club of deputies fond of Havana cigars. He once boasted that he spent 1000 euros a month on cigars--a SMIC's worth of Havanas, if you will.