Thursday, October 8, 2009

Jean Sarkozy Takes Over in La Défense

Devedjian is out. Young Sarko, age 23, is in. A meteoric rise, no doubt due entirely to the young man's merits. Of course even if the president is re-elected in 2012, the heir apparent will still be only 31 in 2017, a bit young for the presidency. So the dynastic succession will have to wait a while. In the meantime, there is money to be made but also dangerous shoals to be negotiated. Jean will need some serious mentoring from his father, an old hand at Hauts-de-Seine politicking.

Mitterrand s'explique

Here. It would appear that Sarkozy has decided to tough it out.

For Mitterrand I feel a certain pity, mitigated, however, by the rather sinuous way in which he mingles candor with equivocation. His strength as a writer is his ability to convey sincerity. As a politician, he cannot avail himself of this resource, and the strain is evident, for example, in his continuing defense of Polanski as "an artist of international reputation," even though he has clearly been told, and apparently accepts, that to interfere in the workings of international justice is not part of his brief as minister of culture.

Hence he neither recants nor reaffirms. He equivocates while attempting to cling to self-respect. That he cannot dissimulate like a born or hardened politician is to his credit, yet the effect of his performance is to make the viewer wish he were not forced to witness this spectacle in public.

I also felt sorry for Laurence Ferrari, who had to endure his outburst at the end. This was a public ritual in which each actor played a part. Ferrari played hers perfectly, neither submissive nor vindictive, and Mitterrand should have spared her his tongue-lashing. Unless, of course, the flare of anger was part of the act. The purpose of this play, after all, is to establish where the limits of decency lie, which parts of the private life of a public man should be subject to which standards of judgment. Indignation is a way of drawing a line in the sand. Marine Le Pen used it to move the line in one direction; Mitterrand uses it to move the line in another.

The Value of a Degree

Le Monde yesterday set up an oddly oblique confrontation between two scholars: sociologist Louis Chauvel and economist Eric Maurin. The former holds that the value of a diploma has declined sharply over the past three decades, while the latter denies this. Oddly, the two pieces ran side-by-side with no direct confrontation between the two scholars. In addition, Chauvel's views emerged somewhat haphazardly from an "Internet chat" with readers, while Maurin's were brought out more systematically by a structured interview conducted by Luc Bronner and Catherine Rollot.

For a more systematic comparison of the views of the two men, readers can consult these reviews by Alexandre Delaigue: on Maurin and on Chauvel. I find merit in both sides of the argument, each approach pointing up certain shortcomings in the other.