Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Cambadélis on Hollande

Jean-Christophe Cambadélis was on RTL this morning, and his comment on Hollande's attitude toward Macron struck me as perceptive. One of the great mysteries of last year's campaign is why Hollande did so little to rein in Macron when he started to go off-reservation. The impudence of a sitting minister launching a movement that to many appeared aimed at unseating the sitting president went unpunished. The question is why.

Armchair psychologists, including myself, have seized on Hollande's remark (to Davet and Lhomme) that he regarded Macron as his "spiritual son" and concluded that this special kinship somehow made Macron untouchable. Cambadélis has a different explanation, equally speculative but probably better informed by intimate knowledge. Hollande, he says, intended to "instrumentalize" Macron in order to neutralize Juppé. Macron would "ringardiser" Juppé and his centrism and thus clear the way for a Hollande comeback, since at that point everyone expected that Juppé would be the candidate of the right. Then (although Cambadélis did not go this far) Hollande could have bought Macron off with a promise of the prime ministership in Hollande's second term. This would have been more than a sufficient prize for most ambitious 39-year-olds and should have fulfilled the desires of both the spiritual father and the spiritual son.

This grubby political calculus is indeed Hollandesque: as intricate as it was short-sighted, not to say blind to the hopelessness of the president's own position. One wonders if such a scenario might even have been discussed openly. Perhaps Macron was party to it, until his own candidacy took off and Hollande's fate was sealed by the very book in which he revealed his spiritual kinship to Judas. Of couse this is also precisely the sort of political calculation that would appeal to Cambadélis, so perhaps the whole thing is a figment of his imagination.

I have ordered his book. Political perfidy makes for good bedtime reading.

Le JT 20H de France2

The network news is a bit ringard in the 21st century of the Internet, but, as a subscriber to TV5Monde, I have been watching the JT 20h of France2 for many years now. As is well-known, we old folks have a hard time getting used to change, so it was with trepidation that I greeted the announcement that the seemingly inoxydable David Pujadas had been replaced. Not that I held any particular brief for Pujadas. His blandness simply seemed de rigueur, what one might expect from a state channel.

His replacement, Anne-Sophie Lapix, is no less bland, her smile no less ubiquitous, though rather more motherly. Pujadas was a Ken-doll, while Lapix is anything but Barbie. But the personality differences matter less than the changes in staging. Someone at France2 has decided that the news should be delivered by people on their feet, roving about the stage, which is now fitted out with diorama-like backdrops and plexiglas comptoirs. Lapix wanders stage right, notes in hand, to confront François Lenglet or one of the other in-house regulars, then veers stage left to take up another subject. All the movement seems quite pointless. Perhaps the very idea of an "anchored" news delivery is outmoded. The Internet has led us to demand interactivity, the ability to zap from headline to headline, focusing only on what interests us rather than on what L'Oeil du 20 Heures has declared the day's feature story.

I'm curious to know if anyone else watches, and, if so, how you've reacted to the changes at France2.

Macron's Europe: Et le service après-vente?

President Macron chose the Sorbonne to give his big speech on Europe yesterday, following by a quarter century the great pre-Maastricht debate on the future of Europe at the same venue between François Mitterrand and Philippe Séguin. Coming only two days after the German vote cast a new shadow over Europe's future, Macron's words put a brave face on inner anxiety. He took care to avoid irritating German sensibilities, although there was a passing dig at the red line that FDP leader Christian Lindner said must not be crossed. In other respects the French president took care to remain well within the vague limits the German chancellor has already indicated she would be prepared to accept: a European finance chief wielding control over an unspecified budget, closer cooperation on immigration and security, candidates for the European parliament on transnational slates, taxation of American high-tech firms doing business in Europe. He also called for harmonization of French and German corporate tax rates, on which I don't believe Merkel has yet committed herself.

The speech was echt Macronism. Lofty in conception, bold in symbolism, vague on details. Macron's method is to indicate a general direction and leave the actual destination sufficiently unclear that whatever end is finally chosen can be declared as a victory. It worked with labor code reform; it might work with Europe. But eventually people will tire of the exercise of marking points on a map and begin to wonder if they've actually moved anywhere. Planning a vacation is fun, but you haven't been there until you can start posting those snapshots on Facebook, as it were. Europe is indeed necessary for France's future, as Macron suggests, but until its fruits start showing up in people's paychecks, it's going to be a hard sell. Macron can be a persuasive salesman, but potential buyers are already asking about le service après-vente.