Sunday, January 24, 2016

Sarkozy's Mea Culpa

Several readers have asked me to comment on Sarkozy's new book. I haven't read it and have seen only excerpts in the press, but it's probably safe to assume that they've extracted the most significant bits. My impression is that this "confession," like every other move Sarkozy makes, is a carefully calculated part of his communications strategy.

He had hoped to be embraced as the party's savior, returning from ascetic retirement to bring order to a chaotic scene. That hasn't worked out. Juppé continues to best him in poll after poll. Other party leaders have tired of his imperious ways and are openly or covertly scheming to get rid of him. He is well aware that many Republican voters regard his presidency as a failure. So he has decided to change tactics and present himself not as a condottiere on a white charger but as a victim and sinner, betrayed by people he trusted (Buisson, Fillon, Copé), scorned by the media, and himself a fallible sinner (Fouquet's, the yacht, the "casse-toi pauv' con" episode--j'ai abaissé la présidence).

His base is increasingly made up of elder Catholics, so casting himself as a scorned sinner may seem like a wise strategy. Absolution may be slow in coming, however. He's adopted this pose before, often in interviews with the press. Expanding the confession to book length was probably a mistake. He still needs the strong man image, and while the occasional short confession is tolerable in a republican monarch, the extended one tends to magnify the artifice and create an impression of desperation, which is probably accurate.

The most amusing moment, I thought, was his assertion that he married Carla quickly in order to spare her prurient speculation in the press about the nature of their relationship. This is the same Carla who crooned "j'ai 40 ans et trente amants ..." I don't think she was overly worried about being portrayed in the press as a scarlet woman.