Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Carla Stands By Her Man

I suppose it had to happen sooner or later:

Q. Do you take your inspiration from Danielle Mitterrand or Bernadette Chirac?
A. Both are women I respect. But just as Nicolas is unlike any of his predecessors, I would like to keep my own personality while of course respecting the dignity of the office [of First Lady].

Surely the Environmental Grenelle accords prohibit wasting paper in this way (it hits the newsstands tomorrow, folks, so line up now).

But wait, "Nicolas" can take heart. Although Ms. Bruni has said that intense desire lasts only two weeks and love no more than a year,

... recent brain-scan studies show that romantic love really can last years into a marriage. Last week, at the Society for Personality and Social Psychology conference in Albuquerque, researchers presented brain-scan data on several men and women who had been married for 10 or more years. Interviews and questionnaires suggested they were still intensely in love with their partners. Brain scans confirmed it, showing increased brain activity associated with romantic love when the subjects saw pictures of their spouses.

No doubt Ms. Bruni will see many pictures of her spouse and share with him many novel situations, which is science's remedy for stale marriage.

Le Monde Encore

So the Le Monde saga seems to have ended for the moment with Louis Schweitzer's unanimous election as chairman of the board. Schweitzer was Laurent Fabius's chief of staff and served as minister of the budget under Mauroy before becoming head of Renault. He is also on the board of the Institut Français de Relations Internationales. As solid an Establishment figure as outgoing chairman Alain Minc, in short, though perhaps less compromised by intimacy with Sarkozy. Editor Eric Fottorino's editorial is a masterpiece of understatement, un chef-d'oeuvre du non-dit.

Meanwhile, Béatrice Gurrey has become the head of the journalists' association, replacing the outspoken and combative Jean-Michel Dumay.

A Stunning Victory!

I've seen some adroit maneuvers in politics, but this takes the cake. Patrick Devedjian, who apparently heads the UMP these days without often giving signs of life, awoke briefly yesterday to "resolve" the "crisis of Neuilly" and today announced that the party's champion in Sarko's old bailiwick will be Jean-Christophe Fromantin, who isn't even in the party but has the inestimable virtue of being way ahead in the polls. So the brief intraparty dissidence led by the president's son Jean Sarkozy and two others has served two purposes: it disposed of the embarrassing candidacy of David Martinon and ensured a "UMP victory" in Neuilly. There will be no headlines registering Sarkozy's stupefaction at having his (or, rather, Cécilia's) hand-picked successor rejected in his personal fief. It has been a diverting sideshow, but now we can all get back to business.

Culpepper's Franco-American Comparison

Pepper Culpepper makes an interesting comparison between Ségolène Royal and Barack Obama.

Sarko Honors Romania

Thanks to an alert correspondent, I can direct your attention to this interesting clip of the French president's diplomatic style. Rather than flatter foreign interlocutors with gifts, he demonstrates his admiration for their taste by relieving them of their stylish fountain pens.

The Royal Question

Bernard Girard takes up my question about why Ségolène Royal inspires such animosity and offers a novel answer. It has two parts. First, he notes that before Royal, Mitterrand and Fabius also aroused hostility, and all three sprang from right-wing milieux and preserve in their manner traces of their origins that irritate, especially on the left (Girard is specifically addressing hostility from the left, whereas I was concerned with a less politically-linked hostility that I thought I could detect in some of the comments on Royal). The second part of Girard's argument is particularly interesting. Unlike Mitterrand and Fabius, he says, Royal does not express herself particularly well in public. She is not a good orator and doesn't display the subtle mastery of language that distinguished the other two Socialist leaders. Hence her slips of the tongue, gaffes, neologisms and the like are taken as evidence of lack of intelligence. By contrast, Strauss-Kahn and Rocard, who are by no means fluent orators either, are exempt from such criticism because their technocratic vocabulary is marked with the sign of mastery of complex and arcane matters, which listeners count themselves incompetent to judge. You can read Girard's argument in full and in his own words here.

Tony Blair's Future

After Tony Blair made his triumphal appearance at a meeting of the UMP recently, with Sarkozy at his side, it was widely assumed that he had thereby tossed his hat into the ring for the presidency of the EU and that Sarkozy had agreed to support him. If so, another fissure has just opened up in the Sarkozy regime, because secretary for European affairs Jean-Pierre Jouyet said today that he thinks the EU president ought to come from a Eurozone country--and of course Tony Blair does not.

It's a novel point and one on which I have no clearly thought-out response. In a way, Jouyet's comment serves only to underscore what a strange beast the EU is. My instinct is to say that at this stage in its history, what the EU needs is closer political rather than economic union. The euro is a done deal; EU political institutions post-Lisbon remain to be defined. A well-spoken, high-profile leader like Blair whose national ambitions are finished but whose international ambitions remain to be satisfied might be just the ticket, and a sensitive awareness of the potency of Euroskepticism and, in particular, hostility to the euro might serve the first EU president quite well and avoid certain potentially disastrous blunders.

ADDED LATER: Bakchich, of all places, adds an interesting sidelight to this theme. According to Matthieu Adenil, Jouyet and French ambassador to the EU Pierre Sellal, both former Socialists, are attempting to counter the anti-EU influence of Sarkozy counselor and speechwriter Henri Guaino, who, according to Adenil, has taken the lead on European affairs within Sarkozy's staff. Guaino, a Euroskeptic from way back, is attempting to sit on EU-related economic issues, Sarkozy having exhausted his interest in the details after pushing through the Lisbon Treaty ratification.