Friday, March 8, 2013

Did Buisson Engineer the Sarkozy Interview Leak

Rue89 reports that Sarkozy's entourage is enraged at Patrick Buisson, who is held reponsible for the publication of the former president's chat with journalists from Valeurs actuelles. Sarkozy allegedly believed that his remarks were off the record. This does seem plausible, given the number of stunning headlines generated by this one brief interview--an indication that its candid avowals of Sarkozyan ambition and blunt criticisms of Hollande did indeed go beyond the usual norms of this sort of exercise. But what exactly was the point of this exercise if it was to have remained off the record?

Sarkozy Disses Mali Op

Has one brief interview ever generated so many headlines? In addition to heralding his political comeback, Nicolas Sarkozy broke with republican tradition to criticize his successor on a matter of foreign policy, indeed of war and peace:

"Que fait-on là-bas ? Sinon soutenir des putschistes et tenter de contrôler un territoire trois fois grand comme la France avec 4 000 hommes ? La règle, c'est qu'on ne va jamais dans un pays qui n'a pas de gouvernement." 
 Yet this is the same Nicolas Sarkozy who intervened in Libya when its government had broken down and who vowed never to allow "a terrorist or Islamist state to emerge in the heart of the Sahel." Indeed, it's hard to imagine a Sarkozy in power and not intervening in Mali under the circumstances that existed at the time--almost as hard as it is to imagine Hollande intervening after his statement during the campaign that "France cannot and will not intervene in Mali in the place of the Africans."

So this is difficult territory, mined with contradictions. Even granting that, Sarkozy seems to have crossed a line in the sand. And if he wanted to provoke, he succeeded: Hollande responded to the former president's remarks without naming him during a ceremony at the Invalides honoring a fallen French soldier. One can imagine how withering Sarkozy's scorn would have been if the situation had been reversed. Hollande is not as good at expressing contempt, but one felt that despite the limitations of his instrument, his intention was clear.