Last week after seven years in France I finally opened a bank account, with the post office. I had tried to do this in Paris but to no avail; for some reason it’s easier here in the country. Everything was going smoothly until the kindly bank counselor, who had already interviewed me the week before, said, “I see you’ve written something about Nicolas Sarkozy.” I’d been Googled — and busted!
I swear it’s not to cover my back that I’m writing the following. If I tell you that politically, my two choices for president in the last election would have been François Bayrou of the Movement Democratic or Olivier Besancenot of the League Communist Revolutionary, just re-baptized the party of anti-capitalism, you might get a hint of where my ideas stand: On ideas. What Bayrou and Besancenot have in common is that they refuse to cleave to traditional ideologies. As I’ve written before, for the French, who are used to cleavages, Bayrou’s ‘centrism’ was misunderstood as ‘flou’ — mushy — when indeed what it means to him is that he considers himself free to take, or express, ideas from any camp, without regard to whether they conform to a particular ideology. Thus last summer, when a simple control d’identité at the Gare du Nord quickly degenerated into a riot between police and young people, the Right took recourse to the need for order, the Left to the need for social programs in the suburbs, and it was Bayrou who simply pronounced, “This is what happens when young people fear the police.” As for Besancenot, one gets the impression that he is truly concerned by the suffering of those who are less fortunate, whereas with the Communisits, one often gets the impression their biggest concern is to recruit more members for their flagging party.
I think the reason many people are disappointed with Sarkozy is that they believed he was also free from cleavages. Unfortunately, that has not always been the case, particularly as pertains to his tendency to privelege private enterprise and propaganda. Except… in the case of public television. In announcing that he wanted to see the abolition of commercials on public television — to the consternation of many on the Left as well as the television commentators reporting (with bias) the news — he also stated that he wanted to see the quality of public t.v. programs improve, explaining simply that he often couldn’t see the difference between programs on public t.v. and private. La, je suis d’accord. Some — on the Left — expressed outrage, but seriously, what’s the difference between a chain that broadcasts Law & Order and one that shows Cold Case? Indeed, the more intelligent of the two — Law & Order — is on the *private* or commercial chain. Donc la, Sarkoz a raison.
Since losing to him a year ago, Sarkozy’s Socialist opponent, Segolene Royale, seems to have taken every opportunity to prove the adage, “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.” (Trad. trés approximitif: “Il n’y a aucun cholere dans l’enfer comme celui d’une femme jeté.”) At first it seemed useful to have her on every move Sarkozy made. But she went too far — and exposed her selfish motives — last week when, as everyone else, from Right to Left, rejoiced at the freedom of Columbian-French hostage Ingrid Betancourt after six+ years, Royale nah-nah’d, “Nicolas Sarkozy n’ete pour rien,” or Nicolas Sarkozy had nothing to do with her freedom. Here tout la France for once let cleavages go to join in unanymous, genuine jubiliation — even on the faces of the television news anchors like David Pujadis, one could see that the smiles were not pat, but earnest, joyful — but Segolene just could not let go of the chip on her shoulder and shamelessly tried to exploit the opportunity to score points against Sarkozy. (Fortunately, even some of her own colleagues, like Jack Lang, were embarassed and scolded her.) Deuxieme pointe, she’s just wrong. If, as Betancourt recognized, Sarkozy’s predecesors also deserves credit, since being elected Sarkozy has not ceased to make Ingrid’s freedom a public priority, even volunteering to go to Columbia himself and retrieve her from the hands of her captors. Even if it meant consorting with Leftists like Hugo Chavez. And as anyone knows, the key to keeping hostages alive, let alone securing their freedom, is to keep their names and cases in the public eye. Non Segolene, Sarkozy y est pour qqchose. Vous par contre….