May 7, 2007


Shortest of Honeymoons (MARK STEYN, May 7, 2007, NY Sun)

The discontented citizenry often complain about the lack of croissance — that's not a basket of crescent-shaped buttery breakfast pastries invented to mark Christendom's victory over Islam at the gates of Vienna in 1693, but the French word for "growth." The Fifth Republic has entirely missed out on the Reagan-Thatcher booms of the last quarter-century: its over-protected and over-regulated economy has led to permanently high unemployment and a lack of entrepreneurial energy, not to mention various social tensions from the blazing Citroens and Renaults lighting up the sky every night to entire suburbs that have effectively seceded from France to join the new Caliphate. It's a measure of the torpor of French politics that M Chirac regarded a presidential election against an elderly fascist as little more than a mildly embarrassing social faux pas rather than a profound indictment of a failing system So he spent his second term as he did the first, governing as an elegant narcissistic complacent hack.

When you mention "the French riots," most people assume you're talking about the excitable chaps rampaging around in 2005. But it was another set of riots six months later that symbolizes the trap in which the political class is caught. The fall 2005 rioters were "youths" (ie Muslims from the suburbs), supposedly alienated by lack of economic opportunity. The spring 2006 rioters were "youths" (ie pampered deadbeats from the Sorbonne), protesting a new law that would enable employers to terminate the contracts of employees under the age of 26 in their first jobs, after two years.

To which the response of most Americans is: you mean, you can't right now? No, you can't. If you hire a 20-year-old and take a dislike to his work three months in, tough: chances are you're stuck with him till mid-century. In France's immobilized economy, it's all but impossible to get fired. Which is why it's all but impossible to get hired. Especially if you belong to that first category of "youths" from the Muslim ghettos, where unemployment is around 40 to 50 per cent. The second group of "youths" — the Sorbonne set — protesting the proposed new, more flexible labor law ought to be able to understand that it's both necessary to the nation and, indeed, in their own self-interest: they are after all their nation's elite. Yet they're like lemmings striking over the right to a steeper cliff — and, naturally, the political class caved in to them.

When most of us on this side of the Atlantic think of "welfare queens," our mind's eye conjures some teenage crack whore with three kids by different men in a housing project. But France illustrates how absolute welfare corrupts absolutely. These Sorbonne welfare queens are Marie Antoinettes: unemployment rates for immigrants? Let 'em eat cake, as long as our pampered existence is undisturbed.

It would be helpful if there were exit poll numbers you could disaggregate, because the possibility, even likelihood, exists that Sarkozy won not because of any promised changes to French statism but because he was the candidate people trusted to give shoot to kill orders the next time the ghettoes explode. In effect, the Left's portrayal of him as an authoritarian racist may have played to his strength.

A sharp right turn (Leader, May 7, 2007, The Guardian)

For Mr Sarkozy the time for speechifying is over. Having acquired a reputation as the man who gets things done, the president-elect will storm into action. For this 6,000 riot police around Paris are braced. All police leave in the Seine-Saint-Denis region of north-east Paris, the scene of the worst riots in 2005, has been cancelled. The only brake on the president-elect's actions is the immediate prospect of parliamentary elections on June 10 and 17. These are likely to go the same way as the presidential election, and if they do the last hurdle will be cleared. If rioting does break out in the suburbs, the social unrest will not do anyone, least of all the immigrant communities, any good. It will only play into the hands of a president eager to earn his spurs as a tough, no-nonsense leader.

The same logic applies to the threat of the unions to make mass demonstrations on the streets, the "third round" of the presidential elections. Mr Sarkozy may be a divisive and dangerous figure for just under half of the French nation. But he has been elected by near-record numbers of voters. Not since 1965 have so many people participated in the fierce debate. This confers legitimacy on both Mr Sarkozy the president-elect and his programme, especially since he has been so blunt about what he intends to do.

Posted by Orrin Judd at May 7, 2007 7:01 AM

Kent State in France? Mon Dieu! It can never be!

How long will it take before the Democrats begin to hiss at Sarkozy? My guess is this afternoon.

Posted by: ratbert at May 7, 2007 7:24 AM

The Dissident Frogman has an interesting post on the new clown.

The real reason for Royal's defeat was that she outraged millions of her fellow Frenchwomen by committing the unforgivable faux pas of wearing white shoes before Memorial Day.

Posted by: erp [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 7, 2007 7:37 AM

Sorry, I forgot to credit Drudge for the photo of Royal.

Posted by: erp [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 7, 2007 7:39 AM

I'm glad the Dissident Frogman has been referenced -- I was delighted he weighed in. His view of Sarko is pretty dim, and he's a source I trust beyond all others. He notes:

"his willingness to confiscate guns from their legal and registered owners while letting the jihadist rampage freely during the two weeks of nationwide riots ... All the while talking his way up to his biggest PR hoax: that of appearing as a zero-tolerance Law and Order hero.

"Sarkozy is all talk, no walk. Or worse: talk, but walk the other way. A politician as cunning and deceitful as Chirac, only younger."

Posted by: gsk at May 7, 2007 8:19 AM

Sigh. The siege of Vienna was in 1683, NOT 1693. If you're going to reference historical events that 99% of people know nothing about, it's best not to tick off the 1% who do.

I saw about 5 minutes of the French debate on CSPAN last week. Anyone who thinks Hillary has a chance in 2008 should take note of the performance of Royal and her subsequent tanking in the polls.

Posted by: b at May 7, 2007 10:51 AM


OJ posted a column a while ago in which someone wrote that the battle took place in 1689, which led me to make a corrective comment. I'm a bit surprised that folks get the date wrong considering the eerie circumstance that the battle took place on September 11-12.

Posted by: Matt Murphy at May 7, 2007 2:51 PM