Sarko On Bastille Day


All is not well, according to Art Goldhammer:

The French feel, yet again, that they are adrift, as in the final years of Chiraquie. But Chirac was old and worn out, as Jospin said. It was almost to be expected that he would be out of ideas, running on empty, serving out his time. Sarkozy was to have been the new. His accession was to have marked the "passing of the torch," as Kennedy said, to a new generation. That is why so many people turned out to vote. But all the careful staging of this national as well as personal redemption--the jogging, the sweat, the New England summer,, the chest-poking of union stewards in railway yards, the personalization of the presidency--came to naught. And with frustration have come nastiness and arbitrariness. If he could not be Jack Kennedy, he would become Margaret Thatcher.

He gloated that under him the unions had become invisible (but Thatcher had waited longer before crushing the unions, and when she crushed them, she hurled bolts that were real, not rhetorical). He moved against state television. He prosecuted a hapless citizen whose T-shirt had mocked him. He denounced institutions that displeased him: the army, the courts, the media. Yet none of this vituperation seems to have reversed his slide. None of it seems to be making him wildly popular or prompting a cult of idolators. He has denounced the state theater for serving up stale classics that leave him bored to tears, yet his own second act seems thus far to be that stalest of French presidential classics, la fuite en avant into the vapid marches of foreign policy.

(Photo: Joel Saget/AFP/Getty.)