Sunday, April 30, 2017

Ross Douthat, Apologist for Le Pen

Ross Douthat must rival Jean-Luc Mélenchon in his distaste for Emmanuel Macron, whom he calls "the callow creature of a failed consensus" and "the John Lindsay of the Eurocrats."

Douthat might have exerted himself a little more strenuously rather than phoning in his column from the Hamptons if he had challenged his own complacent assumptions by asking a) why the abortion- and gay-friendly Le Pen so easily routed her pious opponent of the mainstream right in nominally Catholic France; b) why French polling indicates a sharp (+15%) uptick in SUPPORT for the EU over the past six months, as the prospect of Le Pen's calling a Frexit referendum on the heels of her election became increasingly real rather than hypothetical; and c) what the nomination and quick resignation of J.-F. Jalkh, Holocaust denier, say about the "competence" of the FN, with its extremely shallow bench, to take the reins of government with no more robust ally than Nicolas Dupont-Aignan and with every other seasoned politician in the country (save Mélenchon and Laurent Wauquiez, the right's Iago) endorsing "the John Lindsay of the Eurocrats" (an odd simile for Douthat to choose, given the low salience of poor John Lindsay in the minds of readers of Douthat's generation, or even mine, for that matter).

There is no doubt that Le Pen is a competent politician; I've made that point myself, contrasting her forensic skills with, say, Trump's. But her mastery of the dossiers is purely rhetorical, and she has given less thought to the actual consequences of leaving the EU than even Boris Johnson did. Compared to which, "the callow creature of a failed consensus," who conveniently lent himself to Douthat's meeting his alliteration quota for the week, is John Kennedy rather than John Lindsay--young indeed but well-schooled and well-traveled in all the right places.

With Brett Stephens associating atmospheric science with Robby Mook and Ross Douthat painting Emmanuel Macron as the spearhead of the Wehrmacht's onslaught, the right side of the Times bench is going for broke, casting what I will call, for want of a better term, managerial centrism as today's totalitarianism in order to wreathe their peculiarly pinched conservatisms in populist plumage (who can't play at this alliteration game?). A pox on both.
For a much more probing and useful conservative take on France, see this piece by Christopher Caldwell, which takes off from the work of Christophe Guilluy.


Unknown said...

Thanks for calling out RD on this irresponsible piece, his second in this vein, I believe, and one of half a dozen or so that the NYT has run lately for reasons I don't fully grasp. This time RD could not even keep his story straight from beginning to end. In my comment I asked:
How can you claim: "To begin with, nobody seriously doubts Le Pen’s competence, her command of policy" and later say "her economic prescriptions are half-baked"? Which is it? Plenty of people doubt Le Pen's competence -- that's the main reason why they're not voting for her. The only thing that should be half-baked is fondant au chocolat.

Anonymous said...

Douthat and Sullivan either don't get it, or are trying to be contrarian.
There's no indication they've read the FN 'platform ', watched Frenchtv, read the French press. I wish someone would tell them to watch Envoye Special and today's 13:15 dimanche.

MCG said...

If Douthat is all that wrong, I'd like to see more specifics.

jean said...

Thank you for this. I ran into that piece of opinion yesterday, and I decided that reading it was not worth my time right after this sentence:

"To begin with, nobody seriously doubts Le Pen’s competence, her command of policy"

Apparently I am not alone to disagree on this. About everyone I know has some doubts about this; even supporters of Le Pen. This party and her president are drama-fueled, used to painful schisms (remember Bruno Mégret or Marine's "political assassination" of her own father?). They have a complete and full command of communication with the media, yet they don't had any experience of actually being in charge of anything.

The FN and/or Marine Le Pen being involved of n=6 legal proceedings says it all when it comes to Le Pen's competency...

Anonymous said...

What a ridiculous piece --and I'm Roman Catholic! Douthat ought to be ashamed of himself, writing this "dreck"

Anonymous said...

Mr. Goldhammer,
Can you provide a link for the poll showing a "(+15%) uptick in SUPPORT for the EU over the past six months"


Anonymous said...

Not as bad as Douthat's irresponsible, ill-informed piece, but definitely playing up the "match".

One fundamental error: in Whirlpool, LePen initially won, but Macron turned the tables on her when he pointed out that all she did is show up and take selfies while promising "tomorrow it's free" (a French joke: when you come back, the person still says 'tomorrow it's free'...) whereas he met with the union leaders to see if there were things he could actually do. He wasn't rescued by his security (if yu watch the excellent Whirlpool video from Envoyé Special* you'll see a union leader opens the gate and keeps all reporters out and says they'll talk face to face without the cameras, then closes the gate, and Macron's team boradcast it on Facebook.)
Beside pointing out LePen had just come for selfies, Macron said "I'll tell it straight, Whirlpool won't stay, so I won't promise to save all your jobs, but I promise you'll have a fair severance package , because they owe you, and I promise to look for a new owner that'll hire some of you." So, not hopeful, but not the diaster it could have been.
Read "The day Macron averted diaster" by Schneiderman.

* Must-see:

And (strongly recommended)

Unknown said...

Douthat's problem is that he's very ignorant about French history. Comparing MLP to De Gaulle is plain nonsense. It just ignores the essence and roots of FN, that was created as an alternative to Gaullism by, among others, people from the right who felt betrayed by De Gaulle's brand of nationalism. That's a shame coming from such an intelligent and articulate columnist