Sarkozy: a year of hot air and divisive politics

Paris – July 28, 2008 : I suppose if I had to describe this past year I would say it is a bad remake of the sit-com ‘Dallas’ with Sarkozy in the role of J.R. Erwing.  The rich and the beautiful, love and hate, intrigue, anger and insults, everything except the oil and nothing of what a level headed President is supposed to be.

Nicolas Sarkozy is on vacation and this time he is paying for it himself rather than getting a free-bee off of one of his wealthy friends.  We certainly need a vacation from Sarkozy and yesterday I got a good sampling of why.

Invited to a debate on Sarkozy on France 24 TV, I found myself in front of Anne Elizabeth Moutier, a correspondent for the London Telegraph and a rabid pro-Sarkoziste.  She talked non stop and jumped from one thing to the other without going into detail on anything, just like the hyper-Sarkozy does with his superficial blanket statements and running from one place to the other so fast the press cannot deal with what he has said or done. It was the kind of unconstructive superficial debate I hate.

Much Ado About Nothing

So, lets see what he has done in a year.  He gave the wealthiest people in the country a 19 billion euro tax write-off and a few months later told the country the treasury is empty and there is no money for the kind of welfare system France has known.

Moutier justified this tax cut by saying the wealthy were leaving the country.  There is definitely a problem for me when the super rich are making more money than ever and the Middle Class and poor have to foot the bill.  But we were not able to get into that.

The bosses told Sarkozy that his law making overtime tax-free cost more in accounting than if they had kept the old system.  Monier says at least he tried something new.  I thought governments were supposed to think about the consequences of their actions before they act?

The standard of living for working people in France has stagnated for years.  It is even falling.  Yes, Sarkozy has been in government for over a decade (Baladur, Raffarin, de Villepin governments) and is thus part of what created the situation the country is in today.

Other laws have yet to be put to the test, such as the one limiting strike actions and imposing a minimum service by teachers and transport workers. You can pass all the laws you want, but they are only valid once they are put into practice.

Parliament overturned a French rejection of the European Constitution thus evaporating the idea the people are sovereign.  He changed retirement laws for transport workers and at the same time made the people who get 1000 euros a month pension after 35 years of labor look like the privileged.  Sarkozy was good at first at dividing the French at the bottom while those at the top continued business as usual.

He also attacked teachers and is reducing the number by 20 000 at a time when all say French kids need more attention to avoid the kind of marginalization we have seen.  There are fewer kids in the school system today.  It could have been a good chance to make smaller classes rather than the 30 or 35 so many schools in poor neighborhoods have.

But as Sarkozy’s ratings in the polls dropped to the lowest of the Fifth Republic, he began clutching at everything he could to make himself look good.  No photo-op was too silly.  The Franco-Colombian Ingrid Betancourt is freed in a 100% Colombian action; Sarkozy has to hold a press conference with Ingrid and her children.  He makes every effort not to mention Jacques Chirac or Dominique de Villepin who worked so hard to free Ingrid before Sarkozy came to power.

Barack Obama comes to town: Photo-op where Sarkozy says “if he (Obama) is elected France will be very happy.”  He was also John McCain’s best friend in March.  It has been a year of very public private life.  His wife left him again and went back to her lover in New York. They divorce and he marries a very rich aristocrat and pop singer after flouting her in public for a couple of months.  Carla was supposed improve his image. There was definitely a Carla bump but it did nothing to improve Sarkozy’s ratings.

Invite the Terrorists to Dinner

He brought Libya’s leader M Qaddafi to Paris and the guy made a fool of the French using his high profile visit to tell the world he is here to stay, even raising a clinched fist in the court yard of the Elysees Presidential Palace.  Worse, Sarkozy gave him a Nuclear reactor in exchange for the five Bulgarian nurses.  Qaddafi is still on probation and without consulting his allies Sarkozy gives him what the world is denying the Iranians.  Qaddafi’s regime is actually behind a terrorist attack, which blew up a French plane over Africa.

He brought Bashir Assad of Syria to France for a Euro-Mediterranean Summit, which he had to downgrade in importance because EU countries did not want it and did not want Sarkozy carrying out independent diplomacy, which could divide Europe.  A slap in the face.

Israel and Syria were talking through the Turks.  Great.  They did not need Sarkozy’s public show to get together and France had nothing to gain through insulting its partners by bringing Assad out of the doghouse.

Bashir Assad is believed to be behind the killing of President Jacques Chirac’s very good friend Rafic Hariri, the Lebanese Prime Minister.  Bashir’s father, Hafez, is believed to have been behind a bomb attack on French troops in Lebanon in 1983, which killed 58 French soldiers.  So, Sarkozy invites him to set on the Bastille Day parade at his side and review this same Army.

This came on the heels of Sarkozy’s public insult of the Army after a training demonstration in which live ammunition was mistakingly used instead of blanks and in which 18 people were hurt. “You are amatures!  You are not professionals,” he told the French Army before the whole world.  Great Commander-in-Chief!

Sarkozy last year sent his Foreign Minister to Baghdad.  “Shouldn’t France help the Iraqi government?” Moutier asked me.  No, it is not a viable government and France should not be assisting the Americans or cautioning them there.  France has nothing but hardship to expect if it gets involved with the Malaki government.  The United States broke Iraq.  Now they own it.

Sarkozy said during the campaign he would pull French troops out of Afghanistan.  He has sent more combat troops there.  It is not a question of whether he should or not.  He should not say he is going to do the opposite.  What are his intentions with Iraq?

Sarkozy says he won’t shake Mugabe’s hand but he will go to the Beijing Olympics.  Then again, he was not going to shake Putin’s hand either, was he?  And now they are great chums. Perhaps he will go further and have Mugabe for dinner like Gaddafi and Assad. Sarkozy talks fast and talks a lot and confuses people but there is rarely any depth.  Anne Elizabeth Monier is the same.

Sarkozy told the Irish they have to vote for the European Constitution again because the ‘no vote’ in their referendum was not acceptable.  The Irish told him to fuck off!  He had to back track again.  But polls say if the referendum were held a second time, 75% would vote ‘no’ rather than the 53% last month and all this because Sarkozy pissed them off. He thought he could treat the Irish the way he is treating the French: complete disdain and arrogance.

We could go on for a while on Sarkozy’s year of disappointments but to sum up, the only tangible thing he has done that got results is give the super rich a very hefty tax break.  He got divorced.  He got re-married.  The French got hot air and the polls show they have had enough.

Anne-Elizabeth says de Gaulle ruled directly as much as Sarkozy rather than let his ministers do the job. I am not sure if de Gaulle was as much of a control freak as Sarkozy but lets not forget, he brought us May 68.