Saturday, March 9, 2013

Le Maire, Un Brin Séguiniste

Bruno Le Maire, one of the brighter young lights on the right, has taken a rather nationalist turn. This is hardly surprising. The constraints on French sovereignty are so tight that the number of viable political positions is shrinking. The extreme right and extreme left have made inroads into the centrist position by proposing simply to repudiate those constraints. France should simply reassert its sovereignty and go its own way. This option is not open to the center-right.

Meanwhile, Hollande's embrace of the constraints that the center-right itself once endorsed (such as the TSCG, the commitment to a balanced budget by a date certain, etc.) has weakened the appeal of that route to the right. It is hardly credible to say, "We'll do what he's doing only better," when a) what he's doing doesn't seem to be working and b) voters don't like it.

So a middle-of-the-roader like Le Maire is obliged to walk a fine line. He launches an n-ième attack on "Brussels" while at the same time asserting that Germany needs France because German economic power cannot do without French political and diplomatic vision. This is hardly a novel idea, but in present circumstances it has taken on a new luster. So we have Le Maire's robust defense of the Germans (he is a Germanist by training).
Cette interprétation est fausse. Contrairement à ce qu'on dit beaucoup, les Allemands n'ont pas l'intention de dominer l'Europe. Ils ne veulent pas assumer le premier rôle politique en Europe. Ils veulent des partenaires crédibles. Ils ont besoin d'une France forte. C'est pourquoi nous devons retrouver très vite une crédibilité économique. Nous n'y parviendrons pas sans proposer un modèle économique et social nouveau.
One might expect this to be the place in Le Maire's discourse where the rubber hits the road. Exactly what will this "new economic and social model" look like? Alas, he disappoints us. We are left to guess where the ax would fall in reducing social spending to "responsible" levels, since Le Maire confines himself to blasting Hollande's allegedly profligate spending and reliance on new taxes (which, he falsely claims, are driving the wealthy away). Such vagueness, reminiscent of Paul Ryan in the United States, is disappointing in an Enarque.

In any case, Le Maire has a new book out, Jours de pouvoir. I enjoyed his last book, about his time as an aide to Villepin, so I've ordered this one. To date, his literary flair is more impressive than his political flair.