Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Pass the feta

OK I’m back. Spring has STILL to show up in Paris, but I can’t hibernate forever; there’s too much opinion-spouting to do! Let’s get right to it, shall we? France has just replaced charismatic President Nicolas Sarkozy by an insipid mass of vanilla pudding and far be it from me to not point and laugh.

So here’s the thing. I realize that a lot of people out there love to hate Sarkozy; bizarrely, the fact that he has a taste for luxury goods—even French ones—seems to stand out more in the minds of many than how he dealt with Libya or managed to keep France afloat during four years of economic upheaval. Who cares if he single-handedly reshaped the presidency? Who cares if he brought gutsy and much-needed structural reforms? The big jerk dared celebrate his 2007 election at a swanky restaurant! Quelle indécence! 

I personally LIKE(D) Sarkozy; his dynamism, while not always well-directed, was a breath of fresh air after 12 years of Chiracian inertia. I loved how he challenged the whiners instead of caving into them; I appreciated his iconoclasm, his courage, his leadership, his willingness to take an ax to the bloated French state. My only wish is that he had hewed wider and faster, though, because with the election of socialist François Hollande, France is nearly certain to do an about-face and march straight into the mire Sarkozy had so deftly avoided.

François Hollande has no experience in high office. No one—not even his supporters—seems capable of explaining exactly why he would make a good president. I’m not sure even he knows why he would make a good president. His campaign platform seems to rest entirely on pointing out that he isn’t Sarkozy. All we’ve heard from him for months on end are self-aggrandizing comparisons with former President François Mitterrand accompanied by platitude upon platitude such as, “What’s at stake in this campaign goes beyond all of us on the Left. What’s at stake ... is France itself” or “I’ll let you in on a secret ... I like people, while others are fascinated by money.” This kind of crapola would be laughable if it didn’t draw emphatic nods from so many.

Whereas Sarkozy brought with him a feistiness and pragmatism sorely lacking from the French presidency, Hollande brings precisely the opposite. The man is in way over his head; he’s like a lost deer caught in the headlights of an oncoming semi. His proponents may cheer him for being “normal” or “calm,” but these are daft, profoundly irritating attempts to sidestep the glaringly obvious fact that the guy belongs behind a desk at the post office, not at the helm of a G8 nation. It matters not whether a president is “normal” (name me ONE “normal” dude who has wound up as president—and no citing Kevin Kline); it matters whether he is capable of successfully leading a world power. And Hollande most definitely is not.

To put it another way, when I looked at Sarkozy over the past five years, I saw this:
It's not who I am underneath, but what I do that defines me.

And now, when I look at Hollande, I see this:
The Traveler has come! Choose and perish!

I don’t know about you, but in the middle of a worldwide economic crisis, when it really does matter who the president is, I know damn well who I want in charge of the country in which I live … and it sure ain’t a French spin on the Stay Puft marshmallow man.

I'll miss Sarkozy. His disappearance from the French political scene will be a tremendous loss, and I’m tempted to say “too bad for France” except that I live here myself and am therefore personally affected by the embarrassing results of an election I unfortunately didn’t have the legal right to participate in. I’m definitely not looking forward to five years of Hollande’s “assuaging” gibberish, especially while he “calmly” transforms France into the new Greece. But, I will not lose all faith in the ultimate utility of universal suffrage, for the United States’ own elections are on the horizon and I cannot wait to get out there and reelect my Obama!

 Now THAT is a world leader!