Tuesday, February 21, 2006

"Sarko": a Conservative Reformer in France...

The Man Who Would Be le Président
Nicolas Sarkozy wants to wake up France.
by Christopher Caldwell
The Weekly Standard

Click here to read.

...French people, to put it mildly, are worried about Islam. They notice yawning gaps between Muslim and non-Muslim sentiment. For instance, according to a poll released by the Center for Political Research (Cevipof) in December, Muslim French are almost twice as likely as others (39 percent to 21 percent) to disapprove of homosexuality. The French fret, too, that many of the institutions of French Islam are supported by foreign governments and note that Sarkozy's CFCM has for periods been under the domination of the hard-line Union of Islamic Organizations of France (UOIF). Sarkozy's approach is to blow past these worries, to face up to the fact that Islam is in France to stay, and to focus on making coexistence tolerable to all parties...

...Both have focused on the country's giant problems: first, a deficit that has swollen to unmanageable levels; and, second, France's still-incomplete reconciliation to the global economy. "The problem with France," Sarkozy said in a January speech, "is not that we work too much but that we don't work enough." He clearly believes the 35-hour work week, won by a Socialist government in the late 1990s, is damaging France's competitiveness, although this is still too treasured an "entitlement" to be attacked frontally, or by name--especially after the alarming successes scored by anti-free market rhetoric in last spring's referendum on Europe.

The free market, in fact, is the most likely means by which Sarkozy could get "demagogued" out of the presidency for which he appears destined. In the heat of an election campaign it is easy for a political establishment to pick apart the "heartlessness" of one who would reform the welfare state. In Germany, Angela Merkel--who held a double-digit lead before last fall's campaign started and today has the highest poll numbers ever recorded for a German postwar leader--came within a hair's breadth of losing to Gerhard Schröder last September when her socialist opponents began dissecting her flat-tax plans...

...Certainly, Villepin will have the advantage in foreign policy when the election comes, whether that is next year or earlier. After suffering what the press euphemistically calls a "cerebral accident" last September, Chirac has been slow to regain his form. In a January speech in Tulle, in his old electoral district of Corrèze, he made a dozen bumbles where he substituted similar words for words that were written in his speech ("No one is extended" for "No one is astounded," that sort of thing).

The presidential election, whenever it happens, is difficult to game out, and full of paradoxes. It's a two-round election, like elections in Louisiana, where the top two finishers in a first round compete head-to-head in a runoff. Everyone expected Villepin--distant from the people, never elected to office, without his finger on the pulse, etc.--to stumble when he started to campaign. But everyone has thus far been wrong. Villepin has shown himself a gifted politician, lifting some of Sarkozy's more attractive programs and running a well-controlled campaign. That does not solve Villepin's big problem--he is Chirac's designated heir at a time when an heir to Chirac is the last thing the French people want.

Unfortunately for Sarkozy, the second-to-last thing the French people want is a real reformer. Villepin has attacked French "déclinologues," a term cleverly intended to present any attempt to diagnose and fix France's problems as somehow anti-French. If Villepin and Sarkozy should both make it to the second round--a real possibility, if the left is as fragmented as it was in 2002 and if Sarkozy peels votes away from the far right--Villepin will win, since his role in obstructing the war on Iraq will gain him the votes of the left. If there is a unified left, and a strong socialist candidate--such as the social-conservative member of parliament Ségolène Royal--then the odds are even for Sarkozy. Anything can happen....

Mark Noonan over at Blogs for Bush wonders if this is France's Last Chance? He has some excellent commentary...and the comments are strong too.
Click here to take a look.
"France has many very large problems, but the chief among them is a so-far indigestible Moslem minority which views itself as Moslem rather than French. If France does not solve this problem, then only disaster will result - either France will come under Islamic domination, or an ethnic war will break out between the French and the Moslems, ending when one side is exterminated and/or expelled. The only solution is to get the Moslems to integrate fully into French life - and only a man of conservative political ideas can even attempt such a thing...

...France can do it - it can integrate the Moslem population, make good Frenchmen out of them and thus gain a new impetus which will carry France into the future as a free and propserous part of the West. It remains to be seen whether or not the French people have the courage and the wisdom to elect someone like Sarkozy to the Presidency."


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