So, dear visitor, GallicFever preserves this look at past French politics in a Macron moment when the scene is vastly different. Can’t file this retrospective — must hold on for dear life to humorous touches from the past because, to my eye and ear, nothing is funny about the 2018 scene. President Macron and company inspire no penguin comparisons and themselves barely crack a smile, let alone laugh. Plummeting in the polls, attacked from many sides — well, no wonder no public chuckles audible from the Matignon-Elysée halls of power. As to my personal fave pundit,Thibault Leroux, these days, he himself may be a bit grimmer. When politics can brutally reconfigure the top echelon of an independent journalist’s contacts index, income prospects can be seriously threatened. But when conditions turn more favorable, we’ll hear more in these columns from T. Leroux. Meantime, a sample, even historical, of the perennial Leroux wit is ever a pleasure to share.
The commentary that follows was translated by moi. Oh, of course,Thibault can write English, too, but it’s a labor of affection for me to translate observations I value. Not trying too hard to conceal my motive, I had forwarded a New York edition of the online journal, French Morning, with their roundup of U.S. media coverage of French politics. “What’s your take?” I nudged my former Paris neighbor. . . .
Thibault Leroux: Not too much new in this summary — unless it’s the U.S. media’s orgy of French bashing. Let’s say, your media have an embarrassment of riches at the moment. Each week, we give them some page one news! And we’re far from finished, since the Big Chief, the Savior, Raymond de Carla, is climbing back down into the political arena.
La francofolle: Wait a minute – (baffled, I had to follow up by phone) ‘de Carla’ means [former president] Nicolas Sarkozy is the husband of chanteuse Carla Bruni, but why ‘Raymond’?
Thibault Leroux: Carla has a song about ‘mon Raymond,’ who’s a stand-in for Nicolas. And there’s a penguin in the song — a subliminal reference to Francois Hollande.
Ff: How so? Something about how (now ex-president) Hollande dresses?
Thibault Leroux: I think the penguin image is supposed to remind us of how he walks.
So much for Monsieur Hollande! When France won two 2014 Nobel Prizes, Hollande’s prime minister, Manuel Valls, gleefully stood up (again) against international and internal French bashing. The big prizes, Valls tweeted, were a sucker punch to French bashers. What’s the French French bashing tract you told me is an influence on public opinion at home?
Thibault Leroux: That would be the current best-selling polemic on the “decline” of France, “Le Suicide Français”. Notorius author Eric Zemmour, tries to defend the WWII pro-nazi Vichy regime and its leader Pétain, as “saviors of the Jews.” Depressing!
You called the author ‘sinistre’ — which I translated as ‘notorious.’ To me, Zemmour is indeed a sinister character. I read that he’s Jewish. Talk about depressing! For some comic relief, at least relatively, let’s go back to Sarko. . . .
Thibault Leroux: Sarkozy could be our very own Berlusconi [the corrupt Italian former prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, who’s forever trying to sidle back to power]. The problem is, ‘Raymond’ hadn’t foreseen a comeback this fast. He foresaw it more towards the end of 2015, and he certainly didn’t plan on taking over the direction of his party. These things are decided somewhere behind the scenes. Bottom line, he’s a long way from becoming president of the republic once again, inasmuch as a good number of his “friends” are about to be his best enemies. We’ll have the right to two and a half years of Sarko Show and presidential campaign. French Morning will have lots of fodder for their articles.
So, why did Sarkozy jump the gun? Explain a bit more about this surprise timing in relation to the sequence of French elections. And did the friends cum enemies give him a push?
Thibault Leroux: Primary elections are in 2016. But he came back in time for party elections this November, to try to take over his party – the UMP. It’s so theatrical, but it’s a dangerous game: if he doesn’t get 80 percent of the UMP vote, that amounts to a defeat. Even 70 percent won’t be enough! But he’s a victim of his own ego. He’s lost every election since the one when he was elected president. [He did lose again.] And he’s [still] got a bunch of judges on his tail [for old campaign money irregularities]. But that’s the Sarkozy thermonuclear energy that our conservatives like so much. They love it when he goes jogging with his bodyguards, wearing his NYPD tee shirt. . . . And you, Ellen, can your francofolie hold up in the midst of all this? Not a piece of cake, but above and beyond the ironies, there’s a sort of fascination for the unexpected, French-style — no?
Mais, oui! And luckily, I do have my own pundit — because otherwise, I’m sure to miss a trick. Speaking of the (politically) unexpected, U.S.-style: Just as I was reluctantly boarding a New York-bound flight from Charles de Gaulle airport on October 1st, 2013, my cell phone signaled a text message: “Incredible (for us),” Thibault wrote in English, “and stupid (for you) fed gov shutdown is awaiting you at home. . .!
Give me French-style unexpected political theatrics anytime, merci beaucoup.
What animal reminds you of Trump? Never mind. Nothing would help lighten up current [anti-]American politics. Still, if we revived the elephant (Republican) and donkey (Democrat) symbols that once were so popular, today’s younger voters might recall that once upon a time, we could at least count on recognizable symbols.
Leroux on GallicFever scooped National Public Radio (NPR) with our October 22, 2014 ‘French-bashing’ item about Eric Zemmour. NPR broadcast their item on Novembr 5. Is Leroux too modest to mention his coup to his journalism masters students in Paris? Probably. But we’re not too modest to say, we know a stellar pundit when we see one. Good for us!