Thursday, April 4, 2013

Review of Le Maire, Jours de Pouvoir

Stéphan Alamowitch has an excellent review of Bruno Le Maire's Jours de pouvoir, essentially a diary of the last few years of the Sarkozy regime, in which Le Maire served as agriculture minister. I am reading the book myself at the moment and can attest that the review captures its spirit accurately.

On the GUD

Historian Nicolas Lebourg writes about the history of the GUD, the extreme-right organization to which Cahuzac's friends are supposed to have belonged.

Why Was Cahuzac in the PS?

Pierre Haski raises an interesting question. What was Jérôme Cahuzac doing in the Socialist Party? Haski takes note of Cahuzac's close relations with two members of the violent extreme-right organization known as GUD (Groupe Union Défense), discussed in this Le Monde article. Cahuzac was a wealthy surgeon on the make. This, plus his choice of close friends, would seem to have destined him to end up on the right when he chose to turn to politics as a career. Was it simply opportunism? Was there an opening to run for local office on the left at the time he took the plunge? What oriented him toward the Strauss-Kahnian wing of the party? It's an interesting question in the microsociology of politics, to which I have no answer.

France's Chief Rabbi Admits to Plagiarism

One scandal seems to bring on another. Is there no morality in France? At times it seems that everyone in the public eye has something to be ashamed of. France's chief rabbi Gilles Bernheim admits to having plagiarized entire pages from the work of Jean-François Lyotard, among others. Bernheim blames his ghostwriter, however.

Further Reflections on the Cahuzac Affair

Yesterday, François Hollande announced several reforms directed against the sort of corruption that Jérôme Cahuzac has now admitted. Bernard Girard believes that this presidential intervention, marked by the president's grave and forceful tone, will help to salvage his quinquennat and rebuild his authority. Few other commentators share that view. Already there are calls for more drastic presidential action, such as a cabinet shakeup.

Of course the cabinet shakeup is the last refuge of all political scoundrels. It is what one does when something must be done, even if it's unlikely to do any good. And that may well be the situation in which Hollande finds himself at the moment. The problem is that his options are severely limited. Who would be likely candidates to replace Jean-Marc Ayrault? Pierre Moscovici is already under attack by the right for connivence with Cahuzac. Manuel Valls, often touted as the next prime minister, has been accused of failing to pursue the allegations against Cahuzac with a parallel investigation led by agencies under his control. If Hollande were to turn to Fabius, he would be accused of a panicky retreat into the Mitterrand era. Martine Aubry? She and the president do not get along. Ségolène Royal? Heavens! There are less well-known possibilities, but if the point of replacing Ayrault is to escape from an intolerable impasse, the new PM will have to appear credible from day one. I have heard rumors that, in an attempt to shake things up for real, Hollande might even look beyond the PS to, say, Bayrou or Borloo.

Any such move could easily backfire. If seen as a panic response to a crisis, it could actually weaken the presidential authority it is meant to strengthen. Meanwhile, this whole business distracts from the real problems facing France, of which tax evasion by a minister is definitely not one.