Saturday, May 14, 2011

Still in shock

I'm still in shock. I had just yesterday finished an op-ed piece for the Harvard Crimson analyzing DSK's likely election strategy. Time for a rewrite.

Like everyone else, I have heard all the stories about DSK's sexual misbehavior over the years. I have long feared that an episode from his past would emerge to sink his campaign, but never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that he could or would do something as wanton and brutal as what he is alleged to have done, especially with so much at stake. Of course he remains innocent until proven guilty. The details of the charges remain quite sketchy, and his version of the event has not yet been given publicly. But it is difficult to believe that the police would have arrested such an important figure without probable cause, and the uncertainty, not to mention the seriousness of the charge, will surely be enough to preclude a presidential run. In addition, we will now hear a lot more about this episode and about the book Sexus Politicus (h/t KB). Normally I avoid this kind of gossip on the blog, but ....

So the entire presidential landscape has been remade in an instant.


Head of I.M.F. Arrested in New York and Accused of Sexual Attack

The leader of the International Monetary Fund, Dominique
Strauss-Kahn, was arrested on Saturday, minutes before he was
to fly to Paris from John F. Kennedy International Airport,
the authorities said.

Mr. Strauss-Kahn, a candidate for president of France, was
taken off an Air France flight by officers from the Port
Authority of New York and New Jersey and turned over to
Manhattan detectives, according to a Port Authority

He was accused of a sex attack on a maid at a Times Square
hotel earlier in the day, the authorities said.

More details here. And here. And The Times.

It's Not Just France

The extreme right is on the march everywhere:

The trouble is that the Danish People's Party [which has succeeded in closing Danish borders and repudiating the Schengen agreement] is not alone. There are the True Finns in Finland, the Hungarian Jobbik party, the Dutch Party for Freedom, the Italian Northern League, the Austrian Freedom party, the Sweden Democrats and the National Front in France, led by the politically astute Marine Le Pen. All are on the rise, and it's not easy to see what might slow their progress.

Green Primary

Europe Écologie-Les Verts will hold a primary in June, via mail and Internet, to choose between Nicolas Hulot and Eva Joly to represent them in the presidential election. Membership dues will be reduced to €10 to permit broad participation. Bon. On verra.

The Radicals Join the Center

French political nomenclature can be baffling to outsiders. The Socialists aren't socialist, and the Radicals aren't radical. Underscoring the second point, le Parti radical today voted to consummate its divorce from the UMP and join what used to be known as 'la Confédération des centres, et nommée désormais par le PR "Alliance républicaine, écologique et sociale".' For those who remember the good old days, when the Right was divided between Giscard's UDF and Chirac's RPR, the new configuration will seem familiar. Borloo, the leader of the non-radical Radicals, sees himself in the mold of the UDF and is threatening to make a run for the presidency, which would greatly complicate life for Sarkozy (not to mention Bayrou, who used to think of this particular tract of political real estate as his). Of course he can always trade in his threat for a firm promise of high office later on. But the tone of Hervé Morin's new book suggests that the divorce may have been more bitten than we knew and that some centrists have had it with Sarkozy. "Republican, ecological, and social" is not so much a party name as a tous azimuts appeal for alliances. It will be interesting where, if anywhere, this goes.

New Discussion Page on Facebook

There has been a Friends of French Politics group on Facebook for some time, but few people use it, and I have missed many of the posts to that page because I didn't receive notifications. In any case, Facebook is phasing out its old groups, so I've created a new page to replace the old group: "French Politics Blog Discussion Page." You can access it by looking for the box in the righthand column of the blog with the appropriate heading. You can also "like" the page, which is a good way of advertising the blog to your friends. So I hope you'll use it this new feature to carry on discussions among yourselves if the spirit moves you. I may or may not participate as time permits.

Hervé Morin: Transfusion ou Transfuge?

Hervé Morin was so mild-mannered as Sarkozy's defense minister, you might almost have forgotten that he existed. But now that he's been sacked, he seems to have been re-energized by a blood transfusion. Or has he rather become un transfuge? Listen to what he writes in his new book with a title that speaks volumes:

Dans cet ouvrage intitulé Arrêtez de mépriser les Français, à paraître le 11 mai chez Flammarion, Hervé Morin, qui envisage de se présenter à la présidentielle, fustige "une représentation du pouvoir" de Nicolas Sarkozy "à son image : brutale, outrée, parfois indécente".

L'ancien ministre, pourtant peu porté sur la critique lorsqu'il était en poste, n'hésite pas à attaquer violemment le chef de l'Etat : "Nous sommes mal à l'aise lorsqu'il tape dix fois sur l'épaule de Barack Obama pour montrer qu'ils sont 'copains'... Des comportements de 'petit garçon' ? (...) Sans doute. Et de petit garçon capricieux."

Mais ce n'est pas là sa seule critique. Il accuse également le chef de l'Etat d'avoir fait preuve d'un grand cynisme en appelant au gouvernement des personnalités issues de la diversité. Hervé Morin raconte ainsi qu'il est "encore gêné en repensant à la manière dont le président 'jouait' avec Rama Yade et Rachida Dati de leur diversité. Il les mettait en concurrence dans un curieux jeu"....Quant au fond de sa politique, M. Morin dénonce une "stratégie du derviche tourneur" menée par un homme qui "manque de vision à long terme", et "fait tout et son contraire". "Un président qui confond volontarisme et annonce permanente",mettant en place "un tournis qui empêche les partenaires sociaux et l'opinion de se fixer, donc de se mobiliser contre une mesure"....François Fillon n'est pas épargné. M. Morin raconte comment, à chaque entrevue en tête-à-tête avec le premier ministre, il avait "droit à un quart d'heure de réflexions critiques [sur le chef de l'Etat]. Une forme de thérapie pour soigner sa sciatique"
Hell hath no fury like a centrist scorned.