Monday, January 30, 2017


I have been reading the Davet-Lhomme tome Un président ne devrait pas dire ça. It's difficult to say whether the portrait of Hollande that emerges from this book reflects the pettiness of its subject or the pettiness of the portraitists. There is not a hint of grandeur in this chronicle of a quinquennat, not a moment of lofty reflection or breadth of social or geopolitical vision. The politician depicted in these pages might have been an obscure député from Corrèze in the Third Republic; it is impossible to see him as a successor of Charles de Gaulle.

For me, the reason for the failure of Hollande's presidency stands most clearly revealed on p. 112, where our two chroniclers record the president's joy as he pores over the organigramme of the new government to be put in place after a remaniement:

Il faut entendre le chef de l'État nous expliquer, la mine gourmande, l'oeil scintillant, comment il a composé lui-même, sur un bout de papier, en mars 2014, le gouvernement Valls I, dans le secret de son bureau. ... Dix-huit noms à trouver ... et deux schémas différents, selon que les écologistes acceptent de cohabiter avec Manuel Valls ou non.
Pas de doute, c'est pour ces instants-là qu'il a voulu faire de la politique. Et devenir président de la République, le décideur ultime, celui qui tire les ficelles.
There you have it. This is why François Hollande went into politics, why he coveted the role of "decider": to apportion "power" among the various factions of a fractious coalition, to dribble out risible bits of influence to the ecologists if they throw in their lot with Valls or to withhold those same bits if they don't, to offer them instead to some other aspirant whose greatest desire in life is to hold un maroquin and be driven about Paris in an official car with a motorcycle escort.

What might such ministers want to accomplish? What ultimate goal might such a president want to achieve with such a team? The subject does not come up, except as it might on the 8 o'clock news, as a criterion to be met in order to renew the lease on the office for another five years. If "the famous unemployment curve" should be inverted, it is not because the president burns to reduce the suffering of the unemployed but because he has made this the condition of his re-election bid.

Perhaps François Hollande is a better man than he appears in this book, but then he is a fool to have sat for such a portrait at the hands of such paltry painters.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

In an odd way, Hollande appears to have something in common with Trump: the joy/interest seems to be in a very narrow, limited aspect of the job. Pour le reste, ils paraissent s'en foutre comme d'une pomme.