Wednesday, March 9, 2011


I suggested yesterday that the Socialists advance the date of their primary. I see today that my proposal suits the Hollande faction. No doubt the Hollandais (Hollandistes?) feel that they have an interest in pushing for an earlier primary, perhaps thinking that this will make it less likely that DSK will quit the IMF. But if they think this, they're probably wrong. Either DSK wants to run for president or he doesn't. I'm sure that by now he's made up his own mind, and, if he's decided to run, all his calculations are tactical. So the question is whether it's in his interest to get in early or late.

Some commenters have made it clear that they believe he prefers to get in late, either to avoid being dragged down from the empyrean of international policymaking into the "stinking quagmire" (as one commenter put it) of French domestic politics. Another pointed out that if he quits now, the Right will charge him with "dereliction of duty," as though he had been sent to the IMF to represent French interests.

These are both good points, but the Right will charge him with dereliction whatever he does. His best defense, of course, is to take a page from Sarkozy, who modestly takes full credit for having lifted France out of the crisis. DSK can declare an even larger victory--"I saved the global economy from collapse!"--and say that it's time to move on to his next challenge, saving France from itself. His claim will be no less plausible than Sarkozy's, i.e., meaningless, but still useful for drowning out the right-wing taunts of "quitter."

In any case, his years at the IMF will be a liability with parts of the electorate--parts whose votes he will need in the second round and perhaps even in the first--so his first order of business has to be to defend his record and differentiate it from Sarkozy's. After all, on one key issue--raising the retirement age--there was broad agreement, as the Right will be quick to point out. But Strauss-Kahn could turn this issue to his advantage by pointing out that raising the retirement age could be done in more than one way and detailing an alternative to the Right's method, particularly highlighting the areas in which its provisions are unfair. He could also tackle the issue of tax reform, where the panicky Right is in full retreat on the bouclier fiscal. Finally, he could point out the bankruptcy of Sarkozy's security policy: opposition from the center has killed the proposal to strip citizenship from naturalized citizens convicted of murdering police (a ridiculous proposal guaranteed to have no real effect other than to create a distinction between naturalized citizens and the rest).

These would be useful ways to spend the next 3 months if DSK intends to run. And even if the calendar does not change, he has to declare his intentions by June 28, so there is really nothing to be gained by delaying. Another 3 months in Washington would add nothing to his stature, not protect him from the foolish yapping of critics on the right, and leave the field open to his rivals. So I think the Hollandais are wrong: DSK has every interest in declaring now and entering the fray at a moment when the Left has been made ever more conscious of the need for unity by the rapid rise of Marine Le Pen. If ever there were a moment for a Man on a White Horse, this is it. Cross the Potomac, M. Strauss-Kahn, and return to the banks of the Seine.


Anonymous said...

What if polls keep saying he is the only socialist that can make it to the 2nd round - what is more, guaranteeing a PS victory over MLP in the 2nd round - as months progress? Would he not be better off letting the clamour for his candidacy increasingly identify before he has even declared?

Massilian said...

I think we have reached the stage where clever views and wise programs aren't expected from anyone anymore and wouldn't make a difference in the outcome of the 2012 race anyway. Too late. We are beyond rational choices. The script and cast suck ! Polls run the show. I can even imagine that so many people will be so fed up by the disgraceful display from the crackling UMP, all barons afraid to loose their good jobs and privileges because of hyper Nicolas, and from the left, unable to clean its southern "ecuries d'Augias", unable to come up with any believable homeopathic social ointment and unable to pose as a happy family again, that the final round might oppose smiling tata Marine to grumpy uncl' Melanchon.
As J.B. Shaw put it : Democracy is a device that insures we shall be governed no better than we deserve.

brent said...

But DSK's a Man in a White Stretch Limo--and that's a problem.