Thursday, September 6, 2012

Hollande Bashing

Le Monde today features a piece on "Hollande bashing." Le dénigrement, the paper helpfully explains, for those who don't understand franglais. The article presents the phenomenon as a media fashion, and I suppose I'm guilty in my own small way of joining the bandwagon of bashers. I haven't exactly warmed to either Hollande's policies or his style of governance thus far. All the positive has been in the contrast with Sarkozy.

But I don't consider myself a Hollande basher. I think he faces a very difficult situation and is still feeling his way. I don't think he had a clear road map in mind when he was elected, and I believe that he's been relatively slow in trying to put one together since then, in part because the Socialists are rusty at government, having been out of power for so long. His team is inexperienced and ideologically heterogeneous (consider Montebourg and Moscovici). And no defining opportunity has presented itself.

On the other hand, Hollande deserves credit for remaining within himself, avoiding blunders, and mostly eschewing cheap effects. To be sure, he has kept campaign promises, some of them costly and of dubious merit, but the bashing would be worse if he hadn't. The chief concern is that opportunity is slipping away, but that is based on the notion that a presidency is defined by its first 100 days, which is sometimes true but not always, and can be overblown.

What Hollande needs, what Europe needs, is a galvanizing shock, an event that will create a moment to be seized. If that moment comes, and if Hollande can make the most of it, he will perhaps be able to dispel the morose climate and define himself. But not every president is fortunate enough to be presented with such a moment, and few are capable of taking advantage of it if it comes. Bill Clinton gave a brilliant speech last night at the Democratic Convention, but he was far from a brilliant president. Circumstances must conspire with the man to make a great president. So we should be patient with Hollande. His moment has not yet come--nor has it yet passed.


FrédéricLN said...

Fully agree with the post; and with Marcel Gauchet's remarks in the next one. (Marcel Gauchet is certainly not advocating for sarkozysm; just pointing that people rightly doubt whether he has any master plan to take us out of the mess. A little bit the same as for John Kerry in 2004 about Iraq — but he was only a candidate. Hollande successfully avoided during the campaign, to answer the simple question. Because he used and reused a valuable and easy answer : stop following the Sarko way. Yes we stopped; and now what?

Of course Hollande is not alone, his majority and his government are made of this wonderful PS, the best party on earth as far as managing cities by increasing local taxes is the issue (which is not a small performance. Many of our towns improved vastly during the last 20 years). But also a party that has never proved able, since 1920, to face crisis issues at national level.

Maybe the leader will prove able. His moment may come indeed; we'll see then, not only whether Hollande has guts (I'm sure he has), but whether he has a plan.

The good thing, from my point of view; if he has one, his majority will follow. Because I'm quite sure THEY have none, and I include Montebourg and even Mélenchon here.

FrédéricLN said...

A very bad move I didn't expect from this Administration: a paranoid reaction of the Prime Minister Ayrault, « Il y a des conservatismes, des résistances, au point que je voyais d'ailleurs une liste publiée par France Domaine qui ne correspond pas tout à fait à notre commande »,

The belief that government services ("administration" in the French meaning) constantly resist to the policy orientations from the top, is based on strong rationale. It would be very logical if the services in charge of managing the State-owned real estate property, brake as much as they can when the politicians (such as the Ministre du Logement) tell them to sell this real estate at low prices to let social housing be built: you never want to be deprived of the things you're managing; moreover, the State-owned (narrowing) real estate is one of last counterparts for our financial debt, so if we sell it, it should be at the highest possible prices.

But, as Mr Apparu puts it, the services always answer to the political request, as slowly as it may be, only partwise perhaps, but they won't cancel the request. The Minister has to be patient, astute and persevering if the really wants to have the services do something — but the worse way to obtain this cooperation, is, to accuse them of resisting.

If the calm Mr Ayrault reacts this way, that suggests the "cabinets ministériels" are already contaminated by paranoia. Ms Duflot reacted quite sharply to Authueil's begign post on the Légions d'Honneur she granted to Green militants. The "Hollande-bashing" moment certainly doesn't help.

But I keep the same basic hypothesis: they are afraid because they just haven't the smallest idea of what policies they will (be able) do enforce in the next 3 or 6 months. Somehow, Hollande-bashing in newsmagazine may be the outcome of existential doubt in "les cercles du pouvoir".