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the New Yorker : the battle for France

by oldfrog Mon Apr 16th, 2007 at 03:12:49 PM EST

Round One
The battle for France.
by Jane Kramer
April 23, 2007

Politicians Late one night toward the end of March, after a day spent listening to too many Frenchmen talk politics, I called room service at my Paris hotel, hoping for a sandwich. "We have ham and Emmental, on toast," the waiter on the phone told me. "Good," I said, "and could you grill the sandwich?" "No, Madame. The menu says ham and cheese; if we grill the sandwich, that would be more like a croque-monsieur." "Agreed," I said. "Make it more like a croque-monsieur." "Alas," he said, "that is not possible. A ham-and-cheese sandwich is never grilled, only when the menu says `croque-monsieur,' and it does not say `croque-monsieur.' " It occurred to me then that I was lost in a very French conversation, and never mind that the waiter came from Senegal. He was French now, and our conversation was no different, really, from the ones I'd been having all day with those stock characters from the country's ongoing campaign commedia--the pundits, the philosophes, and the pols.....


8 pages of analysis and interviews with Bayrou, Royal, Christine Ockrent and more...

interesting reading, interesting date for the article too...

It's as well written as one would expect from the New Yorker. But again we have the usual conventional wisdom from an English-language journalist (do they learn it by rote?):

The country has stalled. Its growth is minimal. Its protectionist policies are disastrously out of touch with the global reality, let alone with the realities of the European Union, which it helped to found and enlarge (and then to undermine, in 2005, when it voted against an E.U. constitution). Its business, beyond the realm of luxury labels and designer clothes that the rich will always pay for, is not competitive. Its fear of the market is endemic, although, to be fair, that fear involves a reluctance to import the kind of social attrition it sees in America now. Attrition, of course, takes many forms, and the French form can be just as punishing: an unemployment rate of more than eight per cent, and as much as forty per cent in the big housing projects and immigrant neighborhoods where most of the country's five or six million Muslims, the majority of them second- and third-generation French citizens, live. In the fall of 2005, thousands of young men from those projects--or, as the people who live there call them, les cités--took to the streets for a month of unabated rioting, to protest the lack of jobs, and even the prospect of jobs, in the land of "liberty, equality, and fraternity." (Part of the problem is education; the rest is simply French xenophobia and racism.) Yet there is still so much resistance to economic reform--"reform," in France, is a code for "Mrs. Thatcher"--that Sarkozy has been the only candidate willing to admit that the country will have to accept layoffs in the private sector, and reduce a massive public sector that eats up nearly forty-five per cent of the national budget.

If you can go along with that, I suppose there's not much difficulty to going along with this:

Bayrou's idea--to create a pro-Europe, pro-market, social-democratic parliamentary bloc: a party, really, that would draw its membership from progressives on the left and the right--was new, and appealing.

The journalist seems to have spoken (beyond candidates) with Christine Ockrent, Bernard Kouchner, and Alain Duhamel (the latter two openly pro-Bayrou). Unsurprisingly, she comes through with a dreamy-eyed version of Bayrou's intentions.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon Apr 16th, 2007 at 04:47:51 PM EST
and her French is fluent. I think it's her choice of interviewees that's interesting, not the fact that she buys the Kouchner and Duhamel lines.

I've been wondering for some time what the Manhattan Literatis' take on the French elections would be (as opposed to the Beltway Bores, who will slavishly follow our "special" friends, the Brits, in all their Euro thinking). I think Kramer is, for better or worse, pretty representative. Bayrou is the kind of French person "sophisticated" Americans like, the kind of French friend we'd love to show off at a dinner party.

by Matt in NYC on Mon Apr 16th, 2007 at 05:24:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, I think you're right. Bayrou's just fine for the New Yorker.

As for Kramer's knowledge of France, I don't doubt she speaks French and knows the place. But, as I've said elsewhere re other Paris correspondents, what they do is mostly write what they're supposed to. They write what fits the editorial style, line, ideological world, of the medium they work for. That means they reinforce, or at least never contradict, the CW narrative.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Tue Apr 17th, 2007 at 02:25:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
where is the problem ?

Bayrou annonce la création d'un parti démocrate après la présidentielle

LYON (AFP) - François Bayrou a confirmé lundi à Lyon son intention de créer un parti démocrate après la présidentielle, qualifiant un tel courant de "chaînon manquant" de la politique en France et même en Europe.

Le candidat UDF a souligné lors d'un point de presse qu'"il y a trois grands courants dans le monde", les deux premiers étant "les courants conservateur et socialiste".

"Le troisième est le courant démocrate, qui manque en France et en Europe", a-t-il dit, avant de tenir une réunion publique au Palais des Sports.


he is right, even if similar parties exist in other places in Europe, but maybe more as "liberal-democrats" if you don't count the nordic social-democracies. In reality the difference between the two currents is mostly about the level of intervention of the state.

The socialist parties are an eufemism for communist parties that became "reformed" after the fall of stalinism or after the fall of the Berlin wall. The Swedish VPK, then VP, then "V" are a good example of that. In France the socialist s replaced the classical communists whose rethorics became a bit out of date. In countries like France, their incapacity (even in government) of solving the real problems has only resulted the rise of extremism. One good third of the French workers votes Le Pen and the the other third votes for anachronisms like Laguiller et al...

There is a real opportunity here and it will happen and it would dramatically improve the French political life, and probably the European one. It can happen on the 22nd if Sego doesn't go to the 2nd run off (implosion guaranteed) and in any case if Sarko wins. The legislatives are the third round and a new Democrat "coalition" can really make the difference, preparing for 2012. It's maybe the most likely scenario, because Sego doesn't stand a chance anyway. She cannot mobilize more than 45% of the vote and for that a big part of the centrists have to vote for her.

What I understand from the "centrist" blogs most of them won't.

The socialists that won't vote Bayrou on Sunday are guaranteeing 5 years of Sarko. Le Pen isn't a threat, Sarko has a part of his vote and the low level of abstention will bring down his score. To make more than 20% with the projected abstention level, Le Pen has practically to dubble his electoral base from 2002. He won't, specially not against Sarko.

Sego is only smoke and mirrors, the stupidest invention the socialists have ever made.

In case you don't believe me read this :

"La réponse de madame Royal tardait à venir. J'ai passé le samedi après-midi avec John Paul Lepers et d'autres partenaires pour organiser le débat, et surtout pour avoir une réponse officielle du PS. Au fil des contacts auprès des différentes personnes de son entourage proche, la réponse était parfois oui, parfois non, parfois peut-être, et très souvent « on ne sait pas encore »... Les récentes prises de position de Rocard et Kouchner n'ont pas dû faciliter cette décision. Exaspéré par tout ça, John Paul Lepers décide de partir à un meeting de Ségolène Royal, pour lui poser la question, samedi soir. Après quelques heures d'attente, John Paul réussit à approcher finalement madame Royal pour lui demander : « Alors, vous venez au débat de lundi sur Internet ? ». Réponse étonnante de Mme Royal en s'éloignant : « Quel débat ? ». Sur ce, John Paul essaie de la suivre, mais un coup bien placé (exactement là où vous pensez) par une personne de la sécurité calme toute velléité de poser d'autres questions. J'ai beaucoup rigolé. John Paul nettement moins...

Finalement, on aura la réponse officielle dimanche, peu avant 14 heures, alors que tout était prêt et que de nombreuses personnes s'étaient mobilisées bénévolement tout le week-end... Et là, du coup, j'ai beaucoup moins envie de rire...

Je rappelle que tant M. Le Pen que Madame Royal avaient déjà accepté le principe de ce débat tout en étant conscients du refus probable de M. Sarkozy."


what kind of leader is this that lets one's bodyguards kick a guy in the balls because he is asking a question about a debate ?

what is the REAL difference between those people and Sarko ? My answer is "none".

But they still pretend to be on the poor people's side...

open your eyes

by oldfrog on Mon Apr 16th, 2007 at 08:26:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If we argue about this you're going to whine again that you get "near-flamed".

That you are, in fact, as I have said before half in jest, a reactionary, now seems perfectly clear when you write

The socialist parties are an eufemism for communist parties that became "reformed" after the fall of stalinism or after the fall of the Berlin wall.

That is historically false and a right-wing slur.

As to Bayrou, let him build a party if he wants. That's fine by me. I wouldn't necessarily be opposed to his party - just let him really build a political movement that can stand on its own two feet, that's all. Which means, let him crawl out from under the right, where he has always lived and run his career, and to which he owes his political and electoral existence. Let him gather together enough political figures who believe they can get elected under his banner. For the moment, he's just talking and waving his arms about.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Tue Apr 17th, 2007 at 02:12:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]

In countries like France, their incapacity (even in government) of solving the real problems has only resulted the rise of extremism.

Strange how job creation (and growth) was at record levels under the Jospin government. How the tax burden went down during that period. How real progress like CMU (universal health cover for the poorest) or PACS (civil unions) took place.

Your arguments are just false - the mindless repetition of the slurs of the right.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Tue Apr 17th, 2007 at 05:07:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
And of course, Chirac's blatant fearmongering had nothing to do with 'the rise of extremism'.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Tue Apr 17th, 2007 at 05:07:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The socialist parties are an eufemism for communist parties that became "reformed" after the fall of stalinism or after the fall of the Berlin wall.

The socialist parties? I'll grant you the PCF and the trotskyists, but the socialist movement as we know it now was born out of the split between those who wanted socialism and democracy, and those who preferred their socialism served with dictatorship and mass murder - i.e. regardless of what one thinks of the socioeconomic aims of the socialists at various points in time, it is precisely their rejection of the communist political model that distinguishes them from the anti-democratic left.

by MarekNYC on Tue Apr 17th, 2007 at 02:39:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Sego seems all over the place, with no real focus.  
Everybody gets his or her wish in Royal's platform, and the only subject left hanging is how to pay for it all. (One page of her "hundred points" that I picked at random included: raising the monthly minimum wage to fifteen hundred euros, which means a little more than two thousand dollars; raising the lowest retirement benefits by five per cent; raising benefits for the handicapped by five per cent; doubling the annual subsidy for schoolchildren; reducing bank charges; and guaranteeing housing for life.) Campaigning, she can sound like a social democrat one day and a socialist out of the nineteen-thirties the next. Sometimes she loves immigrants, sometimes she loves the police more. Sometimes she wants to pay businesses to provide job training for the unemployable, sometimes she wants to raise their taxes. Last month, the Party's chief economic adviser, Eric Besson, got so frustrated by her shifting stands that he quit both his job and the Party. She is "heavily incompetent," he said. "I wouldn't wish it on my country."
How can anyone really expect to get anything done if they present a program of 100 points?
by wchurchill on Mon Apr 16th, 2007 at 08:48:49 PM EST
Mitterrand's program in 1981 had 110 points. He certainly got a lot done...

Hell, 100 points barely fill the schedule of the legislative assembly for a couple years.

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères

by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Mon Apr 16th, 2007 at 09:02:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
sure, hundreds of bills are passed in the US Congress, and I would imagine most Parliaments around the world.  But when one is a leader, one normally puts together themes and programs that they can communicate and focus on.  The broad themes probably have many legislative bills that need to be passed.  Does Sego have such a clear message that she is running on?  She may, btw, and we're just not seeing it from our English press.
by wchurchill on Mon Apr 16th, 2007 at 09:13:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The 100 propositions are grouped into about 10 themes, and constitute the program of Segolène.

As for the tendency to say many, disjointed things, Sarko and Bayrou do exactly the same - Sarko often saying something and its contrary, while Bayrou doesn't even have a clear plan on how to apply its program. But, in a classic way, Ségo's faults are pointed out and not her adversaries'

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères

by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Mon Apr 16th, 2007 at 09:45:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
if you have a link for the themes I would appreciate it.  English would be great, but I would work through the French.
by wchurchill on Tue Apr 17th, 2007 at 12:46:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
and I meant to add, thanks for the comments re; Sarko and Bayrou.  the english press is saying exactly the opposite, pointing out actually the focus and coherence of particularly the Sarko program--as you can see in the New Yorker article.
by wchurchill on Tue Apr 17th, 2007 at 03:00:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]

France has to make "structural adjustments."  

Okay.  After they fire all the workers and open their borders to cheap Chinese goods from Walmart, the economy improves . . . how?  

The Fates are kind.

by Gaianne on Tue Apr 17th, 2007 at 03:00:46 AM EST
Whose economy are we talking about? ;)
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Tue Apr 17th, 2007 at 03:38:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Will China be next to join the EU? ;)

The Fates are kind.
by Gaianne on Tue Apr 17th, 2007 at 04:51:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]

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