Monday, November 10, 2014

Jouyet Twisting Slowly in the Wind

Jean-Pierre Jouyet, after previously denying that Fillon had asked him to "strike quickly" at Sarkozy in the Bygmalion Affair (see previous post), has now admitted that this is indeed what he told reporters Fillon had said. He could hardly do otherwise, since the reporters had recorded his remarks, with his knowledge and consent. This simple fact makes his previous denial seem incredibly foolish, but of course having had this conversation with reporters in the first place was folly enough.

Jouyet is a seasoned public official, not a debutant. He is one of France's best and brightest, an alumnus of the same promotion Voltaire that gave us Hollande, Royal, Villepin, and so many other prominent political actors of the last several decades. How a man of his experience could have committed so many blunders in so short a time is baffling. But if I have to guess, Jouyet is now toast and will probably be gone by the end of the day, or at any rate the end of the week, even if he has been François Hollande's best friend ever since they were army buddies (along with Michel Sapin) back in the day.

In any case, the Elysée is now reeling. It was bad enough that Hollande's "face aux Français" exercise in rehabilitation failed dismally and only added to the mockery to which the chief executive has increasingly been subjected. Now the palace is accused, rightly or wrongly, of having engaged in an "attempted destabilization" of a leading figure of the opposition.

Fillon, of course, continues to deny that he said what Jouyet says he said, and it will be impossible to prove otherwise, since the only other person present at the now infamous lunch backs Fillon's version. The really perverse aspect of this affair is that it diverts attention from the actual enormity of the corruption in the UMP that is the real scandal here. The seriousness of the Bygmalion predations is such that the investigating authorities surely needed no prompting from anyone to pursue the case. But Sarkozy and Copé, who are at the heart of this affair, can now pose as victims of Socialist machinations.

Jean-Pierre Jouyet, whom I had always viewed as a competent bureaucrat and dedicated European, a protégé of Jacques Delors and longtime compagnon de route of François Hollande, who has served France under Jospin, Sarkozy, and now his old friend François, will very likely be forced out of government and end his career in ignominious disgrace. To be sure, he has only himself to blame. How could he have been so stupid?

And for the record, I would say that Fillon is also toast. How can UMP militants consider him as their presidential candidate now that what may have started as a convivial lunch between old friends and colleagues has been portrayed in the press as intelligence avec l'ennemi. I don't think he would have been the candidate in 2017 in any case, but Fillon's difficulties only strengthen the hand of Sarkozy, whose comeback had until the last few days seemed rather underwhelming. Now he has le vent en poupe and the perfect smoke screen with which to cover his own past errors.


Anonymous said...

For the record, I can't believe that Fillon really said that to Jouyet. Why Jouyet would say Fillon said such a thing remains mysterious. And the end is that Hollande DID stick to his promise and did NOT try to influence anything, according to the same Jouyet. So, was Hollande supposed to benefit from that tidbit? Sounds dubious. Clearly, Nicolas Sarkozy benefits... and I don't think he's above manipulating Jouyet into that, in order to "destroy" Fillon.
Juppé, in the meanwhile, remains above the fray, and is looking more and more présidentiable.

Anonymous said...

ps: the reason I don't beleve Fillon said such a thing isn't because I think Fillon is above it - but rather that he'd know it'd be totally pointless if not counterproductive. Fillon isn't stupid. Making such a request, to such a person, in such a public place, makes NO sense whatsoever.

Mitch Guthman said...


It is only since I've been reading this blog that I have become aware of the French practice of rewarding good little boys and girls who do their homework and piano practice while everybody else is out playing by inducting them into the mandarin class.

The promotion Voltaire might once have given France admirable civil servants but it has also has created a passionless, isolated, and politically tone-deaf political class. As you say, Jouyet was a protege of Delors, who worked for Jospin, Sarkozy and Hollande. To you that makes him a good European. To me it makes him a man without a country.

Anonymous said...

Do you think Jouyet, tired of being a "civil servant" rather than a "politician", was trying to "show off" to journalists, saying in substance "look, even UMP leaders come to ME for advice and help!"...
As you say, Art, all we have is what Jouyet said - not what anyone during that discussion really said.
Can Sarkozy have masterminded this somehow, or is this purely hubris from Jouyet?

Mitch Guthman said...

An interesting and totally unexpected development. Julien Dray on RTL says Jouyet made a mistake but can stay. Also, hints that Jouyet misspoke but can't disclose in what way, presumably because the new story is still being concocted.

So, either Hollande stands by his friend or he can’t throw his friend under the bus because Jouyet knows where the bodies are buried or something else entirely.

Anonymous said...

@Mitch: THanks.
Can of worms! This is so ugly.

Jouyet still twisting in the wind though...[affaire-jouyet-fillon-le-temoin-du-dejeuner-prend-la-defense-de-francois-fillon-dans-un-entretien-au-figaro_742193]-20141111-[bouton]

Mitch Guthman said...

@ Anonymous,

Thanks for the link. I personally find the description of the lunch by Antoine Gosset-Grainville (the third participant)to be highly persuasive. If nothing else, I think we can take it for granted that anybody now at the Elysée with good connections in the UMP or elsewhere is networking like crazy trying to find a safe place to land when the good ship Hollande finally sinks. They may have all been in the promotion Voltaire together---not sure, I'd have to look it up--- but, in any case, enarques don't go down with the ship.

On the other hand, the fact remains that Jouyet said what he said (after stupidly denying that he said what he said)so I agree that his future remains in doubt. I would say, however, that his future look much brighter than expected since he received the backing of the Elysée this morning.

And, upon reflection, there's really no reason for Hollande to dump Jouyet. Even if Jouyet is a political liability, that really can make no difference to a president who is just sitting in his cell on the political death row waiting for the axe to fall. At least this way, Jouyet will owe him.