Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Mitterrand in Massachusetts

In last night's senatorial debate between Republican Scott Brown and Democrat Elizabeth Warren, Brown borrowed a well-known zinger from François Mitterrand:

After Warren gave a long, three-part answer, plus “icing” for a total of four, about how Brown has been less bipartisan than advertised in voting against jobs bills, he let loose with this: “Excuse me, I’m not a student in your classroom. Please let me respond.”
Old-timers like me will recall that Mitterrand was widely thought to have won the 1981 presidential debate with Valéry Giscard d'Estaing (and possibly the election as well) when he responded to Giscard's attempt to trip him up on the franc-Deutschmark exchange rate with the statement:

I don't much like your tone, and I'm not your student.
Mitterrand then gave a precise figure for the exchange rate in question. His response was made even more pointed by the fact that he used the word élève in French rather than étudiant. The former refers to an elementary school pupil. He thus amplified his scorn for Giscard's hauteur, which many people already disliked.

How nice to see a Republican candidate in the US borrowing from a French socialist.


bert said...

He called her Professor throughout, didn't he? It's a culture war dog whistle. You'll know better than most how that'll play in Southie.

With Giscard, the resentment wasn't cultural but personal. Someone once tried to tell Mrs Thatcher that Giscard was an elitist. "Not an elitist", she said. "An Olympian." You wouldn't ordinarily look to her for insightful subtlety re the French, but she got that one right I think.

Anonymous said...

although "élève" is also the term prépa and grandes écoles students use to distinguish themselves from mere étudiants (regular college students).

bert: how many in southie were watching the debate?

bert said...

Come to think of it, isn't it full of yuppies now?
I stand by my theory that it's a culture war thing. His secret weapon against Coakley was a pickup truck.