Monday, November 15, 2010

Job One

Job One for the new Juppé-Alliot-Marie tandem in French foreign policy: explaining France's position vis-à-vis the new US get-out-of-Afghanistan date: 2014 instead of 2011. This is inconvenient for two presidents up for re-election in 2012. One of them is French.

The Foreign Policy Shop

Incoming and outgoing.

Employment of Graduates

Survey results contested.

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!

Grunberg on the end of the Hyperpresidency

Gérard Grunberg thinks that Sarkozy's retreat, however unwilling, will make him a stronger candidate:

D’une certaine manière, les difficultés rencontrées par le président pour remanier le gouvernement l’ont paradoxalement aidé. Elles l’ont conduit, pour une part bon gré mal gré, à faire ce qui était le meilleur pour lui, c'est-à-dire à mettre fin à l’hyper-présidence. Désormais, il devra compter davantage sur son Premier ministre, ses groupes parlementaires et son parti. Il pourra ainsi retrouver une position qu’il avait à tort abandonnée, celle d’un chef d’équipe et pas d’un chef tout court. Ce qui ne signifie en aucune façon qu’il perdra le leadership réel du pouvoir exécutif. Mais il pourra se concentrer davantage sur les grandes questions et sur sa future candidature, si toutefois son tempérament le lui permet !

Shocked, shocked

French union leaders come to the US to help an organizing drive at Sodexo and are surprised:

French Sodexo union leaders Jean-Michel Dupire and Gerard Bodard say that after visiting Columbus last spring, they were shocked by differences between the lives of Americans like Snell and French Sodexo workers -- and the difference between Sodexo's self-image and reality. In France, anyone can easily join a union, and everyone in the food services is under union contracts. Most French Sodexo workers earn the minimum wage (about $12 an hour), but they have comprehensive public health insurance, a much more generous public pension, full work weeks, and six weeks paid vacation. (Snell will get her first few vacation days next year.)