Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Fillon Fiddles, Sarkozy Burns

François Fillon held a news conference yesterday. He proved to be surprisingly good at denial, almost as good as Jérôme Cahuzac when he proclaimed to the Assembly and the nation that despite the abundant smoke there was no fire. Fillon saved his candidacy, essentially by declaring to his would-be replacements that he would fight them tooth and nail, refuse to relinquish his official designation as the candidate of LR, and therefore sink them as well as himself (and possibly France) by splitting the LR vote. This was surely the most convincing part of his performance. "You can kill me," he implied, "only by slitting your own throats." This apparently worked. When Fillon said that "Le plan B sera le plan Bérézina," he was obviously uttering a threat rather than offering a neutral judgment.

For the rest, his apology to the French for failing to evolve as quickly as he believes they have done in regard to the morality of political nepotism should have been accompanied by violins. What boffo kitsch! "I am honest," he declared, and, indeed, honesty compelled him to say, in effect, that it's none of the taxpayers' damn business how he used their money to enrich his family because the employment contract between a deputy and a parliamentary assistant was not a public contract but a private contract. Hence the prosecutors who hastened to investigate him have no standing to do so, as his lawyers argue in their brief. Yet at the same time no one has the right to say what duties a parliamentary assistant must perform except his or her employer, the deputy, because of "separation of powers."

It might seem contradictory to argue at one and the same time that the employment contract of a PA is a private matter and yet its content is subject to the "separation of powers" doctrine, which necessarily pertains only to the public sphere. But as we now know, not only François but also Penelope Fillon both hold law degrees, so we should expect their defense to contain a double dose of legal subtlety.

Fillon also deftly avoided mention of the Revue des Deux Mondes affair altogether. He laid all his troubles at the door of the Dishonest Press, in true Trumpian fashion, while hinting again that an unidentified cabal lurked in the background pulling the strings.

I came away from the press conference thinking that Fillon was a rather more sinister figure than I had imagined going in, so smooth in his prevarication that one almost had to admire him for the quality of his performance.

Meanwhile, Nicolas Sarkozy has been definitively removed from the Plan B speculation by the referral of his campaign financing case to a court for trial. Apparently only one of the two juges d'instruction assigned to the case signed the order, however, and Sarko's resourceful lawyer and alleged co-conspirator (in another case) Thierry Herzog seized on this rarity to question the soundness of the procedure.

And so Marine Le Pen will be able to continue crooning her favorite song, Tous pourris.


Bernard said...

You have to admit it : LR and their electorate are truly smart. Of their three main candidates in the primaries, one has already been convicted, one will be facing the Court soon and the third, the winner, Honest Fillon, well, what can I say? These guys truly have their ear on the electorate's pulse.

Anonymous said...

I'm sure the press conference yesterday played well. And then people will remember : those were our taxes he took or handed out to his kids and wife!
As for Sarkozy, this insures he can't run.
So, Fillon is toast.
Do you really think Hamon also is? I mean, no one believed he'll really do that revenue universal, they think it'll be for some people only. If he intends to run on that issue and doesn't make its boundaries for the 2017-2022 period clear, I'm not sure what will happen.
Macron has said he'd finally show a platform next week. That's good, as even people who like him personally were getting impatient and some worried he had nothing.
Mlp... I don't know. Apparently she's sure to make it to the second round, a depressing perspective.

bernard said...

Hamon is already starting to fade from his post-primary polling bump. Macron seems to be steadily rising. MLP is stagnating. As for Honest Fillon, the press has more about him to be published tomorrow, so...

We are now entering, like it happened in all presidential elections since the eighties, the dynamic part of the election where trends get established and I can now confidently predict that the winner-to-be will be quite clear in 3 to 4 weeks time. My own prediction is of course apparent from the paragraph above.

On another note, Art, you might consider when you are ready to publish something about Macron's program to give some details about Macron's appeal to scientists from America to find refuge in France from Trump administration anti-scientist policies. As you know, serious blogs on France are few and far between and yours is rather influential.

Mitch Guthman said...

It would seem that history does repeat itself. I wonder if Penelope Fillon has a good Republican cloth coat?

mpz13 said...

Yes, Honest Fillon should be toast. Must be toast. Will be toast. How many more eggs shall the chained duck lay ?
BUT... it is always hazardous to count one's chickens before they are hatched.
We have seen wellknown crooks being elected.
Think of Honest Berlusconi. And there are many more.
Think of Honest Balkany, reelected Maire de Levallois, the most indebted French city, in 2014, with over 51% of the votes in the first round...
Honest Fillon should be toast, but he's still moving.
And I am not that sure that it is all profit for MLP.
A live Fillon will siphon votes from the FN, crook or no crook.

Mitch Guthman said...


I honestly don’t know whether Fillon will take votes away from Marine Le Pen. There’s very little daylight between them in terms of politics and values; Le Pen is more overly a “blood and soil” ethnonationalist but Fillon isn’t far behind and his party, too, has had more it’s share of soirées of vin et saucisson. For people like me, of course, the lingering stench of Vichy irremediably taints the entire Le Pen family but evidently I’m in a dwindling minority.

The differences become more apparent in their respective economic policies, with Fillon being an unabashed Thatcherite and Le Pen has supposedly abandoned the FN’s longtime economic policies in favor of something with a distinctly Keynesian flavor. If the main differences between the two most are candidates in the second round are going to revolve around economic policy, I believe this would very strongly favor Le Pen and those differences would quite likely make achieving a “republican front” against MLP even more of an uphill battle.

There’s an interesting article by Kathy Lee and Claire Sergent on the Foreign Policy website entitled “How Leftists Learned to Love Le Pen” that, among other things, vividly describes the way in which the PS’s base has disintegrated, in large measure because of the party’s deep commitment to austerity.


Mitch Guthman said...


The LR are smart enough to understand that, for all practical purposes, there are only two political parties in France today. Their candidate is essentially guaranteed a place in the second round against MLP no matter how rotten he may be. And then, of course, the second round is a pure binary choice in which Fillon will look to replay Chirac’s strategy in the 2002 presidential election—perhaps unsuccessfully because the left will simply stay home this time but, even so, most astute political observers still say that Le Pen can’t win, which means that Fillon will.

As I’ve often said, I believe that MLP can win and that’s especially true if she’s facing a corrupt politician who, though having a veneer of greater respectability is allied with Putin, arguably to Le Pen’s right politically and has an even more Thatcherite economic policy than the one that destroyed Hollande’s presidency and turned the entire PS isn’t a smoking ruin. I do not see how Fillon can recreate the republican front that propelled Chirac to victory and without that united front with the center and left, I do not see how he can defeat Le Pen.

There is simply no candidate in French politics today who has the same severe handicaps as Fillon. If he is the UMP’s candidate, Marine Le Pen is not simply closer to the presidency; she will be on the threshold of victory with the wind at her back.

mpz13 said...

Neither do I honestly know wether Fillon will take vote from MLP. It is my feeling though. When I consider the MLP voters (at least here in Marseille) most of them are too loud to be true. It is a lot of show. "Retenez-moi ou je fais un malheur" type of fanfaronnade. Always very happy too come up with extreme statements to provoke and be noticed. They remind me of the CGT parades in the city, agressive slogans, loud music (Bella ciao and Bob Marley, the Lambada is not far...) and next everybody sits at the terrace of cafés andreturns home and watches TF1. That's how extreme they are in reality. MLP voters want to be heard, want to be noticed, but they don't want to turn the table over. They too lack courage. That's why when the time to vote will be close, and without telling Sofres or Ipsos, at the last minute, they will cautiously cast a christian-democrat bulletin instead of the burning MLP one. Marine don't stand a chance, it is all hollow bullshit. A paper tiger if I may quote an old friend from days gone by.

bernard said...

I like bella ciao, great Italian war song, wish I heard it more often these days.
The thing about all these reelected crooks you're thinking of is that hey could talk, really talk. I mean, even Balkany, he''l wrap circles around any audience. Honest Fillon, not so much. Me, I thought for a long time (I was wrong of course, but I did think that) that his original profession must have been notary - notaire de province -or perhaps undertaker - croque-mort . I mean, who's going to get excited about him, he's no David Bowie performing in a concert with teenage girls going berserk (yeah, I saw that in olden days). So, don't worry, be happy, he's a goner.

Anonymous said...

As Bernard said, I would appreciate if you commented a bit on Macron's program. I am a bit skeptical about his "neither left nor right" rhetoric (so similar to our native Ciudadanos, which so quickly faded), but it takes courage to defend the EU so fervently when the project seems so unpopular. However, I am not sure he's bringing anything new to the table, and yet France falls for him. A sign of how low politics has gone these days.