Thursday, January 26, 2012

Germany Looks at Hollande

The subhead in Die Zeit reads: "Einst wurde er Langweiler verspottet, nun soll der Sozialist Hollande Frankreichs neuer Präsident werden" (Once mocked as a bore, the Socialist Hollande is now supposed to become France's new president."

Sarkozy au Petit Écran--à tous les petits écrans

Nicolas Sarkozy will appear simultaneously on 6 French TV networks this Sunday. And maybe the Sunday after that he can do the halftime show at the Superbowl for an encore ...

Hollande Quotes (the Wrong) Shakespeare

When a French presidential candidate reaches for the high rhetorical register, he usually goes for la langue de Racine rather than la langue de Shakespeare. But François Hollande decided to go with Shakespeare. It seems, however, that the Shakespeare he chose was not William but Nicholas, novelist and book reviewer for The Telegraph. Worse, as Sarah Crown reports,
The quote is lifted from his 1989 novel The Vision of Elena Silves, in which it's spoken by a member of a guerrilla group which operates under the motto "Marxism–Leninism will open the shining path to revolution". While Hollande is standing as the Socialist party candidate, odds are his advisers wouldn't recommend him positioning himself as far left as that.
The quote in question was: "They failed because they did not start with a dream."

Ah, well. Perhaps next time Hollande will stick to Molière: "Le chemin est long du projet à la chose" (Tartuffe). Will this be Hollande's bravitude moment? On verra. As Molière also wrote, "Contre la médisance il n'est point de rempart." (h/t KirkMc)

The Cautious Candidate

François Hollande is the frontrunner, and conventional wisdom has it that frontrunners play it safe. François Hollande is playing it safe. The UMP wants to portray him as a profligate spender, so he will minutely calibrate every proposal. To finance the return to a legal retirement age of 60 for those who begin work early enough to have accumulated the necessary number of quarters by then, he will raise the CSG by 0.1 percentage points in each year of his quinquennat. He has baked in a growth estimate of only 0.5% in the first year. He will inscribe laïcité in the Constitution, but only within the terms of the existing 1905 law and without altering the existing exceptions of Alsace and Lorraine.

It's a program to make an accountant smile, but it isn't going to get anyone's pulse racing. And that's just the way Hollande wants it. Pulses are already racing, he figures, at the prospect of dumping Sarkozy, and that will be all it takes. He may be right, but such a program will make for the dullest of campaigns, and it will be hard to pivot to anything more exciting should his poll numbers begin to fall. But the pressure of a campaign strips candidates to their innate character, and caution seems to be the essence of François Hollande. There are worse qualities for a president, I suppose, at least in many historical circumstances. I wonder about the present circumstances, though, and I wonder about Hollande.