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.