Monday, July 14, 2008

O Sarko Mio! Oh, no, no, no...

(Photo: Sort of a bizarre poster that is pasted all over Marseille right now. To the left is a photo of a scratched-up magazine image of Sarkozy's mouth; to the right is a photo of a magazine recipe page covered with vegetable shavings. What could it possibly mean?)

It's strange to think that, if Barack Obama becomes the next President (which, honestly, I don't see happening), the United States will be the only G8 country with a leader from a left-wing party- godless, socialist Europe has a number of conservatives in office, as does Canada. But, it's not that simple to explain: the other way of looking at it- if you really want your brain to hurt- is that Canada and those European countries all have right-wing parties whose policies are more traditionally left-wing than the left-wing party in the US. Many of us are called "radical, left-wing extremists" in America, while being... well, practially Tories in Canada!

Besides, they're not all staying. In the case of France, the conservative great white hope has been a disappointment to make the welkin ring! I've tried to describe Sarkozy's problems before, and part of it is just the way he talks in public: like he's frustratedly trying to explain his lunch order for the fifth time to an exceedingly stupid McDonald's cashier. It's as if he ran for election against Ségolène Royal and now he's running against everyone else in France! He reminds me of Bush, in that he talks in this way where you imagine him leaving every press conference and sighing to himself: "Jesus, these people are just so stupid!" Nobody else gets it like he does.

The thing is, if you're going to run as a reformer with this implication that nobody else gets it the way you do, then you're sort of obligated to get results when you get elected. He really hasn't gotten the results that he promised and he doesn't seem to understand how conditions have changed in the last year in regards to the French economy. The good news is that globalization is paying dividends all across Europe: the bad news is that Sarko is still talking about having to work more to earn more, just like Americans do. Oh, and the price of pasta has doubled.

To be honest, I don't think that President McCain will be dealing with Sarkozy for very long. The Napoleonic dream dies hard, but die it must. I think the French really do recognize the need for change in their country, but as has always been the case here, there are a lot of entrenched interests that amount to a great big boulder that needs to be moved. Most likely, any elected leader will only be able to roll it a few inches. So far, Sarkozy has been content to yell at it!

I'm no expert on contemporary France. But this article by Arthur Goldhammer is the best thing I've read on Sarkozy and where he went wrong with the French. For anyone who's curious, it is highly recommended reading.


Brian Dunbar said...

He reminds me of Bush, in that he talks in this way where you imagine him leaving every press conference and sighing to himself: "Jesus, these people are just so stupid!"

Is Sarkozy talking to the public or the Press that gives you the impression?

'Cause I watch (once in a great while) press conferences on CSPAN and oh..dear..lord there is such a display of grandstanding, editorializing, dumb questions and a scary display of ill-logical thinking ..

Rufus said...

Right, no, the press can be irritating to anyone. But, with Sarkozy, it's not just interviews. He'll give a planned speech at, say, the opening of a factory, and the way he delivers it is like he's just incredibly pissed off with everyone. All politicians use that sort of slow... emphatic... speech... But, with him, it's like he's talking to the dumbest child he's ever met and is about ready to scream. It's really funny to watch if you understand French because, it looks like he's arguing with someone, but he'll be talking about some tedious economic stimulus plan.

In interviews, he definitely tends to clearly dislike the interviewer, and he's actually been ridiculed here for telling a rude member of the public to basically "piss off". All of that you can kind of understand.

But, it's sort of bizarre when he'll be, like, unveiling a monument to WWII soldiers and talks like he's mad as hell and just can't take it anymore! I seriously believe that he is convinced that every other person in France is a moron, aside from himself and his wife. And, actually, I wouldn't be surprised if he thinks that most human beings are beneath his vast intellectual range.

I also could picture him at home dressed as Napoleon moving toy soldiers around a map of Europe.