Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Argument from Silence

The political world seems suspended, awaiting the arrival of Barack Obama and the expected explosion of action that will undoubtedly mark his first hundred days. Meanwhile, silence. One hopes that Team Obama is using its repose well to hone its plans out of the limelight.

In Europe, however, governments everywhere seem equally hunkered down, and it's hard to tell whether the cause is exhaustion or anticipation. To be sure, la trève des confiseurs* always marks a lull in politicking, but here we are en pleine crise and the political scene is as torpid as, say, a Brazilian resort, which is where the hyperpresident has gone to kill time. His European jaunt is over, and once again he seems adrift, just as he did last winter at this time.

Yes, he has a stimulus plan, but it's small, and half of it consists of rescheduled rather than new appropriations. If he's feeling any urgency, he isn't showing it. His minister Eric Besson is busily planning the January summit conference that Sarko has planned with Tony Blair: Experience and Energy will team up to teach the Even-tempered neophyte a lesson in crisis management.

Not for Sarko the "slow boring of hard, dry boards" that is politics according to Max Weber. It's rather politics as spectacle for the society of the spectacle: Sarko will have been the first Debordian president, when all is said and done. But I can't shake the feeling that the timing of the American political calendar hasn't been a good thing. It has seriously delayed a proper response to the crisis, a response that economists say must above all be "targeted, timely, and temporary."

*For (possibly apocryphal) etymologies of la trève des confiseurs, see here and here.