Monday, May 19, 2008

Dissension in the Ranks

Patrick Devedjian might have been a happy man. As the most anti-Turk of the UMP's Young Turks, he should have been pleased that Sarkozy had decided to maintain the requirement of a referendum for any future Turkish accession to the EU. But he had also suffered the recent rebuke of having Xavier Bertrand and Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet dispatched to keep an eye on his faltering party leadership. So he decided to issue another provocation. Today he announced that the party would attempt to undo the 35-hour week. This was a direct assault on Sarko, who immediately sent Bertrand into the field to cut Devedjian down to size. There would be no change in the legal work week, Bertrand announced, and Sarkozy then declared that Bertrand, as always, spoke words of wisdom.

So the breach, already apparent for many weeks, is now open and probably irreparable. Devedjian will be shown the door, and in his own mind he may well see himself in the role that Sarkozy once played vis-à-vis Chirac: the treacherous lieutenant bold enough to endure une traversée du désert in the hope of some day reaching the Promised Land. If, as has been rumored, the charges against Villepin in the Clearstream Affair are soon dismissed, then Villepin may emerge as Devedjian's Balladur. From Bordeaux Alain Juppé is no doubt observing these developments with avid eyes. "I have no friends," Sarkozy is supposed to have said. His erstwhile allies seem to be intent on proving him right.


S&D: No, it isn't some new form of kinkiness to set alongside S&M. It's Pierre Moscovici's folksy way of referring to his courant, "Socialisme et Démocratie," within the Socialist Party. It's also a way of avoiding the name of Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the absent-present leader of this faction. Moscovici tiptoes around this delicate point:

De plus, nous étions, nous sommes un peu orphelins de DSK, fidèles à ce que nous avons fait ensemble, contraints d’avance sans lui aussi. Cela nous avait affaiblis, rendus peu lisibles : il fallait trancher.

I think that's a typo for "contraints d'avancer sans lui aussi," but the lapse is rather eloquent: S&D is indeed "constrained in advance without him." It lacks a candidate with the heft of the Royal and Delanoë factions. Moscovici is more than a little cagey about whether he's a temporary stand-in for DSK or a permanent replacement--which is evidently not the understanding of either DSK or Moscovici's principal ally Arnaud Montebourg, who declared over the weekend that he liked the idea of a DSK candidacy. Meanwhile, Moscovici is keen to let us know that he has won the intrafactional battle for supremacy. His principal rival J.-C. Cambadélis has capitulated:

Jean-Christophe Cambadélis m’a proposé, avec beaucoup d’élégance, d’être le premier signataire de cette contribution.

So now it's up to Mosco to figure out how to keep S&D from being crushed between R&D (by which I mean not Research and Development but Royal and Delanoë). A little R&D in the former sense might be helpful, though. If Royal has her smile and Delanoë his suavité, S&D will need a good deal of substance if it is to make itself heard. We will see if Moscovici is up to the job.

Des Passerelles

Jimmy Carter met with an official of Hamas. Nicolas Sarkozy said he would not presume to judge what others did, that des passerelles might someday prove useful. A retired French diplomat, it has now been revealed, has also met with officials of Hamas. So it seems that passerelles are being constructed right and left, perhaps even faster than George Bush can blow them up, as he attempted to do with his speech to the Israeli Knesset the other day. If countenancing talks with Hamas, even from a considerable distance (and Sarkozy has been especially careful to maintain his distance), becomes the contemporary equivalent of "soft on Communism," which seems to be Bush's notion of how the idea should be handled in the context of an American political campaign, the likelihood of progress will be even smaller than it has been. But the importance of these developments should not be underestimated. They indicate that the old game has ended in a stalemate with which no one can be happy, as Judah Grunstein notes. We await the official American reaction to the Figaro report. I expect it will be mild. The firewalls have been carefully enough constructed that Bush (and McCain) can go on fulminating about "negotiating with terrorists" while the diplomatic pawns continue to advance. The state of play will not change materially until after the American elections. But whichever side wins, the need to know what might and might not be possible remains.

Books on May '68

A review essay covering recent books on May '68 can be found here.