Monday, November 15, 2010

War Machine?

So, one line of interpretation of the government shakeup runs this way: Sarko has circled the wagons, drawn all the UMP heavyweights into a tight formation, and assembled not a government but a campaign staff (see Grunberg's analysis in the previous post and the comments of FrédéricLN to the post before that). Maybe, but the UMP has a problem similar to that of the Socialists: it needs une force d'appoint in order to win.

Has Sarkozy's move helped on that score? Not if you believe that he has driven the centrists into opposition by sacking Borloo and Morin. And not if you believe that he has given up on wooing back FN voters who have been deserting him for the Le Pens--a surrender marked by the disappearance of the Ministry of Immigration and National Identity and the reassignment of Eric Besson. To be sure, the new government includes not only Chiraquiens but also Villepinistes, but this is an all-UMP affair. And the party itself has been turned over to IagoJean-François Copé, who may not be playing Sarko's game at all. Copé might not be entirely disconsolate if Sarko lost in 2012. This would leave him in the position of leader of the opposition and head of the party, an excellent place from which to launch his own bid for the presidency in 2017.

And Sarkozy knows from experience that putting rivals inside the government doesn't prevent them from taking potshots at the head man if the latter is perceived as weak, tottering, and discredited: remember how he treated Chirac between 2004 and 2007. Sarko is now in the position of Chirac bis, and he can expect any number of petites phrases launched in his direction from the likes of Copé and Baroin. Juppé remains his own man. Bertrand and Lefebvre are now inside the government and perhaps therefore constrained from playing the part of attack dogs if their master is assaulted by one of their cabinet colleagues.

My guess is that Sarkozy has decided to play the international card, to try to lift himself above the squabbles of the barons by availing himself of the bully pulpit afforded him by the French presidency of the G20. In this light, the appointment of MAM as foreign minister makes perfect sense. She has no foreign policy credibility whatsoever and will be even more of a nonentity than Kouchner was. Sarko will be his own foreign minister more or less full time. In any case, there's nothing to be done on the home front. The retirement fight is over, the security front proved unrewarding, and austerity offers no room for maneuver. So it's off to foreign climes--unless, of course, the suburbs erupt. Since Sarkozy has done nothing to improve their plight since 2005, this would be a fitting verdict on his presidency.

ADDENDUM: Bernard Girard agrees with me. I swear, folks, I wrote this post before reading Bernard, even the Iago reference!

2 comments:

FrédéricLN said...

"My guess is that Sarkozy has decided to play the international card, to try to lift himself above the squabbles of the barons by availing himself of the bully pulpit afforded him by the French presidency of the G20. In this light, the appointment of MAM as foreign minister makes perfect sense. She has no foreign policy credibility whatsoever and will be even more of a nonentity than Kouchner was."

Let's bet! (never more than 1 cent, in my case).

My feeling is quite different. MAM, if not an inspiring presidential candidate, is a rock-solid person, very disciplined (?) as Barack Obama said of Hilary Clinton. She has a very broad knowledge of policies and world affairs - including arms trade, therefore oil trade, and so on. It's astonishing that she gets this job, after her all-time staff person David Sénat has been fired.

If Nicolas Sarkozy had intended to play an international card, he would have arrived ontime at the G20 summit and would not have left before the end (while he's supposed to chair the G20 now!).

I think his intention is to focus on the home opinion field, and to corner the left the same way he has cornered the center. A little bit the same way George W. Bush cut John Kerry's way in 2004. "We are on some kind of war against some kind of enemy, while 'la gauche' is quarreling around very old topics of hers. My plan against our enemies may be relevant or not, but 'la gauche' just has no intention at all to fight against them".

If this is the intention, pushing MAM as Foreign Secretary is a very nice move. She would find the words to cover, at Brussels or NY, every unexpected move of the President, as far as the task suits her huge "sens de l'Etat".

FrédéricLN said...

I add a link to my memories (!) of the "identité nationale" trick (but the post is lengthy) : http://demsf.free.fr/index.php?post/2010/05/08/Tactical-vote-immigration