Sunday, May 8, 2011

Hard Extreme Right

There's the extreme right, and then there's l'extrême droite "hard". And Marine Le Pen doesn't want any confusion between the two.

Public Intellectuals

Public intellectuals: some Brits wonder if they have them. A number of these folks seem to have BHL on the brain. We're in a more pitiful and parlous state than I imagine if he has come to be the standard by which public intellectualism stands or falls.


Stuff is happening in the Center. Hervé Morin hugged Jean-Louis Borloo. Then he predicted that the Right would divide after 2012: in the place of the UMP there would be two parties of the Right, as in the good old days of the Chirac-Giscard mano a mano. Jean-Louis Copé, who has schemed and plotted all these years to get where he is now, at the head of the UMP, is loath to think that all that effort was for naught, so he has issued a warning to Morin: Qué sera sera. Indeed.

Morin is right, however, that it's difficult to see what will hold the UMP together once its historic mission of fulfilling the ambitions of Nicolas Sarkozy comes to an end. For a brief moment, Sarkozy managed to invest the party with an ideology that made it seem to stand for something more than his libido dominandi, but that ideology is now so blurred that it's difficult to piece back together. He has purged the last vestiges of Gaullism by rejoining NATO and investing France's identity in Europe (with his EU presidency and enthusiastic advocacy of the Lisbon treaty). For a while he tried to elevate the place of religion in French conservative ideology, a move that never appeared to the "Orleanist" right. His recent "Lepenization" has been fitful, opportunistic, and inept, and, worst of all, it hasn't worked: pire qu'un crime, c'est une faute. His neoliberalism, always tentative and ad hoc, has been rendered nonsensical by the crisis. So he leaves the Right increasingly divided and with no clear path forward. If the Left weren't equally disunited, the situation would be catastrophic; as it is, it is merely fraught.

I just watched a docudrama about the Mitterrand years put together by Serge Moati (who rather glorifies his own role in the rise of the Sphinx). At one point, Mitterrand, newly elected, meets with Giscard and is made to say, "--Vous n'avez fait qu'une erreur. --Qu'est-ce que c'est? demande Giscard. --Vous représenter, répond Mitterrand." I doubt that these words were ever spoken, but it occurred to me that Mitterrand's ghost would have a rather different admonition for Sarkozy: "Vous représenter n'était que la dernière de vos erreurs." Although Sarkozy tutoie tout le monde, Mitterrand's ghost would of course be far too wily to be lured into the trap of such false intimacy and would insist on vous, as any self-respecting spirit would.

Lagarde Holds On

Christine Lagarde has held on to her post as finance minister for quite a long time now. In the beginning, such longevity seemed unlikely: a political neophyte, she made any number of gaffes in her first year. But for the most part she has kept her nose clean, avoided major trouble, and managed her department well enough through a difficult period of crisis. She has been outspoken on financial regulation, though perhaps a little too quick to blame the entire crisis on the American decision to allow Lehman Brothers to fail--apparently because she was miffed about having been kept in the dark. Nevertheless, she has gained the respect of her fellow finance ministers as a woman who is always well-prepared. This article questions whether she has achieved much beyond good management and concludes that the answer is no. But it hasn't been a good time for reform of this particular ministry, which has had too many fires to put out, so I am inclined to be indulgent.