Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Incoherence

Suppose Sarko were evaluated by the private consultants Mars & Co., as his ministers will be. What might his "measurable criteria for success" have been, and how well has he met them? He had announced that he would be the "purchasing power president," so one might have expected him to boast of an increase in mean wages, a decrease in inflation, or something of the sort. Instead, he conceded today what has been obvious all along, that his powers to affect these things are limited. "What do you expect me to do?" he asked. "The coffers are empty." But they weren't quite so empty before he enacted 14 billion euros worth of tax reductions. "What about the 35 hour week," he was asked. "Is it over?" His answer: "If you want me to say what I think, the answer is yes." But if he intends to dismantle the 35-hour week, he has reduced to naught one of his central policy measures, the elimination of taxes and social charges on overtime hours--overtime above the 35-hr. legal work week. Why bother with that charade if the true goal was to return to 39 or 40 hours?

So, on the chiffrable goals, his performance looks pretty dismal. By contrast, his rhetoric continues to soar. But a successful president needs to be a pedagogue as well as a rhetorician. He needs to change what people think, to alter attitudes and preferences. He can't appear to be selling a bill of goods and papering it over with poetry. Has Sarko taken de Gaulle for his model, or Lamartine?

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