Thursday, September 23, 2010


Say it ain't so.

Copé Moves His Pawns

Jean-François Copé, who has studied the career of Nicolas Sarkozy, knows that hiding one's ambition is not necessarily the road to the top. Like Sarkozy, he has never made a secret of his desire some day to become president of France. And Sarkozy, who knows a thing or two about political treachery (remember Balladur!), has kept a wary eye on Copé since his election, denying him a ministry and thus far keeping him confined to a parliamentary post far from the party's levers of power and bags of cash. But Copé has been patient, not overtly dissident, and careful in his public disagreement with presidential policy. With Sarko weakening by the day, however, Copé must decide soon how he'll play it in 2012. Is it too soon to make his move for the presidency? Is a wounded Sarkozy still dangerous--more dangerous, perhaps, than an intact Sarko? Does he have enough support to take over the party and make this the basis of his run for the presidency, if not in 2012 then in 2017? One can get a glimpse of the current state of play in this article, but no doubt there is a great deal going on behind the scenes.

I might add that Copé's electoral appeal has never been tested at the national level. He is often seen on TV and heard on radio, but I'm not at all sure that the public has as clear an image of him as it had of Sarkozy in, say, 2005. And to the extent that people do know him, they may well think of him as a smarmy lawyer rather than an homme de poigne. I've seen him at work in a small room, incidentally, attempting to turn on the charm and failing dismally (before an audience of academics, to be sure, not perhaps a group most susceptible to his particular brand of charm). Ambition is not necessarily its own reward. [Note, by the way, that Copé lists the 35-hour week as his party's next "target," having now dispatched (so they think) the retirement age of 60. Such class-against-class overtness may not be an ideal strategy either, but it has at least the virtue of bluntness.]

Uncle Sam Reaches out to the Banlieues

Scott Sayare has an interesting piece in The New York Times about US embassy outreach efforts to the Paris suburbs. (Full disclosure: Scott is a reader of this blog and visited me earlier this year to discuss French politics.) He notes that Uncle Sam has moved in where the French government has moved out. What one wonders after reading the article is how the French government is reacting to this effort. The following sentence in particular raises a host of questions:

Since Mr. Obama’s election, the Americans have helped organize seminars for minority politicians, coaching them in electoral strategy, fund-raising and communications. 

One can only imagine what the reaction of, say, John Boehner would be to the news that the French embassy was coaching, say, Haitian-American politicians on how to knock off their no-doubt Republican opponents. This is really quite an extraordinary intervention for the American embassy, and I can't imagine that the UMP, whose idea of a "minority politician" is an Auvergnat deputy, is pleased. But maybe the French government is so indifferent to the suburbs that it doesn't even know what the Americans are up to. Which suggests a good follow-up story for Scott Sayare.