Monday, September 28, 2009

Web Sites

So Ségo and BD (Delanoë) have incurred some ridicule for their Web sites. But does having a slick site make you a viable candidate? Compare this and this. Competent Web design but not much electoral hope.

Deux poids, deux mesures

The official French reaction to Roman Polanski's arrest has been rather surprising. When "The Jungle" in Calais was closed last week, minister Eric Besson said he regretted having to crack down on such unfortunate people, but the law is the law. When immigrants are expelled from France, minister Brice Hortefeux reminds those given to compassion that France is a country in which the rule of law is sacred.

Yet when a film director who pleaded guilty to sex with a minor and then fled the United States to avoid the consequences was arrested this weekend in Switzerland, minister Frédéric Mitterrand rushed to the microphones to make known his shock and consternation and assured journalists that his reaction was shared by the president. The rule of law was not mentioned. But a certain anti-Americanism was evident in M. Mitterrand's remarks:

Just as there is an America which is generous and which we like, so there is an America which is frightening, and that is the America which has just revealed its face.

Now, granted, 31 years have passed. And the victim would prefer to see the case forgotten. She has moved on. Perhaps the rest of us should as well. In the end I may even be persuaded that this is the best course of action, all things considered.

But in the meantime I think that, for once, the rule of law might well be invoked by a government that is in the habit of relying on it only when it is convenient. Why, indeed, shiould the minister of culture be involved in a case of statutory rape? To listen to M. Mitterrand, you'd think that this was yet another of those cases in which "American puritanism" and "philistinism" got in the way of the sophisticated and comprehensive understanding necessary to understand why Polanski acted as he did. What else could explain the acharnement of the American authorities, perpetuating the alleged vindictiveness of Polanski's original judge?

And yet, and yet ... the facts of the case are not disputed. For some reason not clear to me, Polanski deserves forgiveness because he is ... a creator and was himself once a victim of Nazi persecution. I have difficulty following this argument. I have difficulty understanding why it is the minister of culture arguing this case rather than the minister of justice. I have difficulty seeing why the rule of law should not be allowed to take its course. If Polanski is to go free because he is now 76, because his victim has forgiven him, and because no public purpose would be served by sending him to prison, then so be it. But that is a case to be made in court, and not by the minister of culture in front of a microphone. I am glad to see that other observers agree with me.

P.S. After I last criticized Frédéric Mitterrand, several readers e-mailed to say that I really ought to read his book of memoirs. I have now done so and agree that it is a very good and very moving self-portrait. Having read it, I think better of the man. But the man is now a minister, and his public actions to date continue to raise questions in my mind.

P.P.S. There's more from the UMP in the anti-American vein:
«Ca doit nous interpeller également sur un autre point», a estimé le porte-parole adjoint Dominique Paillé. «On nous présente toujours les Etats-Unis comme une très grande démocratie et une sorte de démocratie exemplaire». Or «on découvre aujourd’hui qu’il n’y a pas de prescription pour les crimes et délits» dans ce pays, a-t-il relevé.

Statute of limitations? The man has been a fugitive for 31 years. I don't think France has a statute of limitations for fugitives either. This is simply obtuse.

UPDATE: A good comment by Scott Lemieux.