Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Free at last!

Dominique de Villepin's acquittal in the Clearstream affair has been upheld on appeal, just in time for Villepin to fend off allegations by Robert Bourgi that he received suitcases of cash from African dictators while serving Jacques Chirac. Although Bourgi claims to have been motivated by a desire to clear his conscience after a long career as political bagman, one suspects a darker motive. Perhaps President Sarkozy's "friend of 28 years" was assigned to send a warning shot across Villepin's bow, just in case Villepin is thinking of some coup de théâtre, such as revealing what he knows about the financing of Édouard Balladur's 1995 presidential bid, of which Nicolas Sarkozy was treasurer.

It's all rather unseemly and frankly a bit old-fashioned in the age of electronic capital transfers. These suitcases full of cash are downright vieux jeu. But there has always been something rather earthy about Villepin, who reportedly swears like a guardsman and likes to mingle with shady characters such as Jean-Louis Gergorin. Despite his matinee idol looks, he sees himself as one of Napoleon's generals when he isn't writing poetry and may be spoiling for a fight now that he has returned, like Col. Chabert, from a long exile. I doubt that Bourgi will be enough to silence him. So the little guéguerre on the right might quickly heat up, further alienating the ordinary Frenchman from the political class, if such a thing is possible.

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