The Salon II

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Starsky & Hutch, Sarkozy & Bush?

(written in October 2007, x-posted on African in America)

There has been much talk around the MSM and the blogs, especially the francophone ones, about the new relationship between France and the United States, since the election of President Nicolas Sarkozy in France. Only last weekend, here in the US, several talk shows and Sunday forums continued to comment on this new affinity between the leaders of the two countries. From Bill Maher, to the France 2 journal (on PBS), to Chris Matthews on his show, to Wolf Blitzer on Late Edition – his guest was “French doctor” and French foreign minister Bernard Kouchner – all marveled and/or sneered at the apparent 180 turn of France, and the – really unfortunate – apparent similarities between the policy and ideology positions between the two. I will therefore not spend too much time going over this again (some may argue I already have).

I must however note that there is one particular policy-setting method, long-mastered in the US, which Sarkozy seems to have borrowed, and implemented dexterously from Bush: I call it “bill packing”. Sarkozy is trying to overhaul the immigration policies of the mighty French Republic, land of welcome… well not so much anymore. In fact Sarkozy has been adamant it seems, to rethink the whole concept of immigration in France. We’ll talk about the oddness of his policy another time. But on this particular legislation, Sarkozy has proposed a total package, making it extremely hard, even for those opposed to him, to object to the law altogether. He has packed the bill with elements that pander to his far-right/center-right base – like the requirement of DNA testing to prove the paternity of the children that accompany immigrants, while also attempting to pander the immigrant rights groups, by including a measure to – this is a first in the history of France – create statistics on the ethnic/racial diversity of France. I was watching a program called “Arret sur Info” (“Pause on the News”), on 3A TeleSud, the French/African channel dedicated to Africa and the French-Caribbean, and the topic was this new legislation; the activists opposing DNA testing – like the representative of CRAN – were contrived in their remarks, because they had to be extremely careful to only reject those specific amendments, while the person defending the bill – Christophe Nana, a Frenchman of Cameroonian origin – had the easier task of simply pointing out all the positives, and the irrefutable leaps forward, that are ALSO included in the bill. Add to bill packing a majority in Parliament, the appointment of the two or three first ethnic minority cabinet members, and you have a recipe for near absolute rule by an arrogant and self-important man, who seems adamant to transform France into the US-redux. This man’s fascination with the US reminds me that the French have never really gotten over their Napoleon “grandeur” complex, and that Sarkozy is simply the latest form of that.

Do not get me wrong: Ségolène Royal would not have been much better. She is also self-important. The difference, however, is that she supports other issues, that include a reduction in the powers of the all powerful French “King-President” – which, one might argue, is not such a bad thing. But Royal would have imposed her vision in much the same way as Sarkozy, should she have had the same majority in Parliament. It seems to be the new attitude in this generation of political elites in France: I am right, I know that I am right, you’re wrong, we’ll do it my way, and if I can help it, I won’t give you any viable avenue to even attempt to prove me wrong, before I do it my way. Napoleon tried that, and we know what happened to him. Bush is still feeling the effects of that. I don’t know why Sarkozy would want to follow such dismal beacons…

I wonder…

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