Thursday, January 7, 2010

Philippe Séguin Is Dead

Philippe Séguin, 66, died last night of a heart attack. I met him once at a Harvard conference. He was an impressive man in several senses: imposingly large, remarkably eloquent, soft-spoken, candid for a politician, ironic, tough-minded, but blessed with a seductively mellow voice. He will be remembered for his outspoken opposition to the Maastricht treaty--the last genuine Gaullist, who debated the arch-anti-Gaullist Mitterrand on Maastricht yet won Mitterrand's admiration and friendship, perhaps because he shared le Florentin's caginess as well as his cultivation.

Though considered un présidentiable for a time, Séguin was a man to whom certain principles mattered more than the presidency, and he could not make the leap from the RPR's Gaullism to the UMP's Chiraquism. Several men who once were close to him now serve Sarkozy, most notably François Fillon and Henri Guaino.

After losing the mayoralty of Paris to Bertrand Delanoë, Séguin withdrew from politics. He ended his career at the Cour des Comptes, which under his leadership has been, if not quite a thorn in Sarkozy's side, at least a mild irritant, with its criticism of certain Elysian extravagances. He was a character, a politician, it sometimes seemed, from another age, before television, which did not flatter his better qualities and failed to generate the affection that his Falstaffian presence could muster in more intimate settings. He would have made an interesting prime minister if Chirac had preferred him to his antithesis, Juppé, and would probably have avoided Juppé's fatal errors. But he would likely have committed his own, because he was a man out of joint with his time, and more interesting for it.

A video documentation of his life and career can be found here. An interview with Roger Karoutchi here.


MYOS said...

Heard on Itélé : he was not adapted to this world where the president decides everything, he wanted to follow his convictions without kowtowing the party line, he elevated every function he took (with la cour des comptes becoming a respected body).
Your write up, Art, is one of the best I've seen so far.
A recap "c'était un emmerdeur, rien que pour ça il va nous manquer" plus the "chèvre de M.Seguin" jokes...
Jean-Louis Bianco, for whom I have a fondness ever since I saw him in a documentary and he was caught crying for joy:’etat-un-garant-des-contre-pouvoirs/
Another sensitive man, François Fillon:

John Cohiba said...

the french prime minister was almost crying during is words about this great French !

Good Bye Mr Séguin !