Wednesday, May 8, 2013

To Shake Up or Not to Shake Up

"Sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought," François Hollande announced a cabinet shakeup. Or did he? Actually, he announced that a cabinet shakeup would come in due course.Why? For what purpose? Who was not doing his or her job? He didn't say. He did praise Manuel Valls, who polls highest among his ministers for his law-and-order--some would Sarkozy-bis--approach to the interior ministry. And he renewed his confidence in Jean-Marc Ayrault, whom most outside observers regard, rightly or wrongly, as a sort of milksop. As unpopular as Hollande himself, Ayrault at least will not put him in the shade.

So once again, true to the governing style that I described the other day, President Hollande has made a headline by doing nothing, only promising that something might happen someday. If he took this step on the counsel of advisors, he should fire them. If he slipped the comment into the interview with Match on his own, he should slap himself for repeating the impulsive error of announcing the 75% marginal tax rate on high earners, which has plagued him since his election. This simulacrum of action, this pretense of a carefully worked-out strategy, every step of which has been planned in advance ("le remaniement viendra en son temps"), is wearing very thin indeed.

Hollande criticized Sarkozy, in his time, for being a president who governed by "coup d'éclat permanent." It was a clever play on words. Hollande, alas, seems to want to govern by coup de plat permanent. 

Le Monde suggests that ministers might be motivated by the fear of losing their jobs. Heavens, if they haven't always feared losing their jobs, then the president hasn't been doing his.