Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Who is Sarkozy, and why are they saying all those things about him?

Lost in the sound and fury of the French riots is the story of one of the main players, Nicolas Sarkozy. The story of the conflict between Sarkozy on one side and Chirac/Villepin on the other has its own drama, although it's been played out on a smaller stage, that of internal French politics. It seems that well before these riots, Sarkozy made some enemies in high places (at least if you believe the following accounts).

Here's some background information about Sarkozy, and some speculation as to what may be at least part of the reason behind Chirac and Villepin's failure to get tougher at the outset of the riots. I have no idea whether this is true--not having my finger on the pulse of French politics--but it is certainly an interesting possibility voiced by those closer to that pulse than I am (via Brussels Journal on November 5):

The French establishment led by the corrupt President Jacques Chirac and his Prime Minister, the aristocrat Dominique de Villepin, an appointee who has never held an elected office, begrudged Sarkozy his popularity. The minister was distrusted. He was an outsider, a self-made man who had made it to the top without the support of relations and cronies, by hard work and his no-nonsense approach.

Sarkozy (whose real surname is Sarközy de Nagy-Bocsa) is a second generation immigrant, the son of a Hungarian refugee and a Greek mother. “I like the frame of mind of those who need to build everything because nothing was given to them,” he said a few months ago about his upbringing.

The experience of his youth has made Sarkozy not only the most pro-American French politician, but also virtually the only one who understands what second generation immigrants really need if they want to build a future.

More important than the so-called “social benefits” – the government alms provided by welfare politicians like Chirac, Villepin and their predecessors – is the provision of law and order. This guarantees that those who create wealth do not lose it to thugs who extort and rob and burn down their properties.

Sarkozy’s decision to send the police back to the suburbs which had been abandoned by previous governments was resented by the “youths” who now rule there. That this would lead to riots was inevitable. Sarkozy knew it, and so did Chirac, Villepin and the others. Sarkozy intended to crack down hard on the rioters. If the French government had sent in the army last week, it would have been responding to the thugs in a language they understand: force. And the riots would long have ceased.

What happened instead was that Sarkozy’s “colleagues” in government used the riots as an excuse to turn on the “immigrant” in their own midst. Paris is well worth a mass, King Henri IV of France once said. Bringing down Nicolas Sarközy de Nagy-Bocsa is well worth a riot, King Chirac must have thought. Contrary to the normal French policy in dealing with trouble makers, the authorities decided to use a soft approach. Chirac and his designated crown prince Villepin blamed Sarkozy’s “disrespectful rhetoric” – such as calling thugs thugs – for having detonated the explosive situation in the suburbs. Dominique de Villepin stepped in and took over the task of restoring calm from Sarkozy. While the latter was told to shut up and keep a low profile, Villepin began a “dialogue” with the rioters. As a result the riots have spilled over from Paris to other French cities. Do not be surprised if this French epidemic soon crosses France’s borders into the North African areas surrounding cities in Belgium and the Netherlands.

As for Sarkozy, the best thing this immigrant son can do is to resign and make a bid for the 2007 presidential elections as an outsider. His popularity with the ordinary Frenchmen has not been tarnished yet. But this could soon change if he remains a member of a Villepin government which is clearly unwilling to abolish the current “millet” system. French patriots do not like to see their country disintegrate into a cluster of self-governing city-states, some of which are Sharia republics.

Since the Brussels Journal post above was written three days ago, it may be that it's already too late for Sarkozy to save himself--or France--from the consequences of letting the riots get out of control. In fact, this morning when I turned on my TV, a CNN reporter was declaring authoritatively (without, of course, citing any surveys or statistics), that (if my recollection of her words is correct) "Sarkozy is now the most hated man in France."

Here's another piece on Sarkozy, this one from this past May. It offers a reason as to why Chirac might want to sabotage Sarkozy's political career, and describes the supposed ways he tried to do so (and how they backfired on Chirac--until now, that is).

Some lengthy excerpts:

The 49-year-old [Sarkozy] had the two most difficult jobs in the French government: Minister of the Interior and Minister of Finance. Few held even one of these positions and came out with a favorable public opinion. Sarkozy became the country's most popular politician, with about two-third of the people viewing him favorably.

He was told that crime cannot be reduced, especially given the disenfranchised and alienated Islamic population. As the Interior Minister, Sarkozy put more police on the streets and introduced monthly performance ratings. Crime rate dropped and Islamic violence was curtailed. The man was also told that he cannot take on French labor unions and will never make France more business-friendly. He did - and the economy improved.

The new leader of the Union for Popular Movement party makes no secret of his desire to rise to the top. Running on a platform of lower taxes, flexible labor markets, more freedom for innovation and enterprise, his outlook seems almost American - and shockingly, the French are eating it up.

By the time he was 22, Sarkozy had won a seat in city council. At 28, he was elected city mayor and by 33, the young man was in the French parliament. Throughout much of this time, he was a protégé of Jacque Chirac, even dating his daughter for a while. Yet, a few years later, he ditched Chirac and backed Prime Minister Edouard Balladur for President. Chirac won and Sarkozy lost his position as a Budget Minister, finding himself outside the circles of power.

"The two men hate each other," claimed an insider in an interview with Time Europe. But in 2002, Chirac's government was floundering and Sarkozy was riding high as a popular, charismatic figure. Presuming that he can ride on the wave of Sarkozy's popularity, while at the same time putting the young man in a no-win position, Chirac decided to appoint his former protégé as the Minister of Interior in the middle of an anti-Semitic wave of violence by Islamic youths. Sarkozy responded with policies so brilliant that people around the world began to talk about him as a future President of France. Chirac then moved Sarkozy to another no-win position - Minister of Finance at the time when the economy was not doing as well as most French would want. Once again, Sarkozy was a spectacular success.

Sarkozy privatized much of France Telecom, reducing the government's stake to under 50%. He waived the inheritance tax, suspended the corporate tax and stood up to demonstrations by the mega-powerful labor unions.

Apparently, the French press are getting into the anti-Sarkozy act, also. Sarkozy seems to have been "dowdified" in his inflammatory "riff-raff" comments,for example.

It's a sideshow to the main event, but an interesting and sobering one nevertheless. And in the end, any take-down of Sarkozy and his attempts to deal with the situation would most likely have long-term effects.


At 2:27 PM, November 08, 2005, Blogger The Bunnies said...

I have no proof, of course, but I see no reason why Chirac wouldn't be willing to let the riots continue for the sake of politics.

Chirac has done nothing to quell the riots, and the longer the riots continue, the worse Sarkozy looks. Perhaps I'm connecting the wrong dots, but after Iraq, I see no reason to give Chirac the benefit of the doubt.

At 2:36 PM, November 08, 2005, Anonymous m.g. said...

Sarkozy may not be finished -- he's still doing well in opinion polls. From The Economist:

Mr Sarkozy favours a zero-tolerance approach to urban violence, and in the days before the unrest began he angered many by calling troublemakers in poor districts “dregs”. But he has stood firm, and he remains popular: an opinion poll published in Le Parisien at the weekend gave him a nationwide approval rating of 57%.

I remember the 1968 student riots and seem to recall that the French were horrified -- they have a basic conservatism when it comes to civil unrest.

Rest of article here.

At 3:04 PM, November 08, 2005, Anonymous mizpants said...

/This post is so helpful and enlightening. We are indeed still in the "fog" stage of these events, as you say in the earlier post, but you've just dispelled one layer of it -- a layer which was deliberately generated by Sarkozy's political rivals, with the help of the media.

At 6:45 PM, November 08, 2005, Blogger Ymarsakar said...

Do not be surprised if this French epidemic soon crosses France’s borders into the North African areas surrounding cities in Belgium and the Netherlands.

The backstabing of the French seems to be non-trivial in its complexity. First the blade goes for the criminals from Sarkozy, then Chirac deflects it and aims it toward Sarkozy, then the criminals stab Chirac in the back as Chirac tries to hold off Sarkozy while Villepin stabs Sarkozy in the back...

It's a 4 man free for all!! Except this time the US isn't there and so there isn't the big elephant to jump all over.

Add in Al-Qaeda, and it's a five man backstabing game. What fun.

Now Chirac seems to have turned his back to the criminals and been stabbed in the back, now he seems to wanna be a "martial law" dictator now, trying to single handedly defeat the criminals... Except, Chirac's already bleeding, and Sarkozy is all the way across the field to keep away from Chirac, fighting with Villepin.

I wonder how long they can keep fencing before they all fall down from blood loss. The fanatics certainly won't be the first, they on drugs dontcha know.

French patriots do not like to see their country disintegrate into a cluster of self-governing city-states, some of which are Sharia republics.

Personally, I think all the French patriots died in WWI. Any now left, are part of the new non-60s and WWII generation. Which means they are out of work, out of power, and out of money.

Not exactly a recipe for a grass roots movement.

Here's another piece on Sarkozy, this one from this past May. It offers a reason as to why Chirac might want to sabotage Sarkozy's political career, and describes the supposed ways he tried to do so (and how they backfired on Chirac--until now, that is).

It's good to see that the French saves the best backstabs in the kidney for other Frenchmen. The regular backstab must have been reserved exclusively for the US and other guillible people like Bush.

Actually, the longer the riots, the worse Chirac looks from an international perspective. Buck stops at the guy drawing in most of the kickbacks, which is Chirac.

The "media" knows about as much about French politics as they do about Iraq.

At 8:01 PM, November 08, 2005, Blogger Sigmund, Carl and Alfred said...

Fascinating conversations, all around.

I'm just waiting for Jean le Pen's entrance.

This time,I'm with Ymarsaker- Chirac can kiss his precious place in French history goodbye.

At 8:51 PM, November 08, 2005, Anonymous dilys said...

I do not have the link, but read that Sarkozy's "thug" (actually "riff-raff") comment was responding to a woman who had asked a question about the "riff-raff." The reports were said to have conveniently excised the question.

I do not know the facts, but IMO that matter of rapport would make it rather a different issue of emotional intelligence.

Sarkozy seems to be a target of MSM-francais, and I do not know whether the French public is yet suspicious enough of their media to discount for bias.

At 9:43 PM, November 08, 2005, Blogger Ymarsakar said...

It's hard to discount for bias when you can't access alternative sources to check your reasoning. At best, that would bring you to a state of uncertainty and gloom and doom. Which, just makes the situation in France worse.

At 11:16 PM, November 08, 2005, Blogger Goesh said...

I can't help but feel in my heart that Jimmy Carter could ease much of the tension in France by bringing a few boat loads of them here. Can't you see him standing in the bow of one of the transport ships, like what's-his-face in Titanic, with that Neal Diamond song, Coming to America, blaring loudly in the background??...we're coming to America, we're coming to America. Have I finally lost it for good? Have I gone too far this time? Can't we just call the situation in France a classic case of Liberal implosion and start taking bets on when the blood really starts to flow? Huh? Should I just pack it in for the night and start over in the morning?

At 11:39 PM, November 08, 2005, Blogger TmjUtah said...

The maneuvering at the national level of french politics has unfolded like the only episode of Survivor I ever watched.

It was the second or third episode (memory blurs detail), and I watched the "community" decide which person was the most able, and therefore most likely, to succeed the trials.

Then they banded together and voted him off the island.

He surely was gone. And sure enough, one of the people that decided to align against him did end up the last person standing. Even got a check and some fame.

I don't think the french have thought this one all the way through.

Won't be any checks handed out when this all winds up. There will be, I'm sure, plenty of knives.

At 7:32 AM, November 09, 2005, Blogger SteveR said...

Remember the "Sorry Everybody" (www.sorryeverybody.com) website that emerged after Kerry lost the election? ("We're sorry World, we tried - from 56.3 million voters...")

Shortly thereafter, I proposed a "Nous Sommes Désolés" website to show how sorry we Americans were that the French had to put up with Chirac et Compagnie. See http://therosenblog.blogspot.com/2004/11/nous-sommes-dsols.html

Well now, nobody took me up on the idea back last year, but I think its time has now come.

Best regards,

At 8:11 AM, November 09, 2005, Blogger Goesh said...

Leave it to the Lame Stream Media to make fools of themselves. The riots are losing steam, it's proclaimed, extraordinary security measures have been put in place. Then we are told the curfew is being violated and overnight 2 superstores were looted and burned, a newspaper office was burned and a subway system was paralyzed by a fire bomb. But hey! only 617 cars were torched! Yee-haww! Them frogs sure know how to bring law and order to bear, don't they? It is starting to become humorous. God forbid they should shoot anyone with a molotov in his hand. Thank God for the 2cd Amendment here in America is all I can say. Apparently the French are not allowed to own firearms, but then given their history, it wouldn't much matter if citzens were armed to the teeth I guess. Can you imagine American men standing by while their cars and neighborhoods go up in flames all over the nation??

At 10:45 AM, November 09, 2005, Anonymous armchairpessimist said...

Con, I'm told, is french slang for dickhead, so if there are any French visitors here, how they must snigger. That's ok. They drive me nuts, but I like and admire the French, and hope they pull out of this one. If it takes a Le Pen to stand up and say to the "youths", "Be French or be gone." then so be it. If angels aren't willing to do the dirty work, then I guess the devil must.

At 11:34 AM, November 09, 2005, Blogger Goesh said...

No sarcasm intended here. I doubt any french folks are present or will be any time soon. They are in a state of shock over their government's inability to stop civil chaos, and they are desperately trying to convince themselves that islamic fundamentalism plays no role in the riots. I mean really, whatever would they do if they came to such a conclusion when faced with a very large muslim population in their midst? I for one do not make the disconnect with attacks on Jews and Synagouges preceding this chaos and the yells of allah akbahr being heard when molotov cocktails are thrown, but then I'm not French. Now, If I am wrong about any French reader being present, then let me explain that to many rural Americans, a frog is a critter that inhabits ponds and streams and nothing more.

At 11:35 AM, November 09, 2005, Blogger RD said...

[M.G.] Sarkozy may not be finished -- he's still doing well in opinion polls.

Agree. Nothing inherently wrong with what he's done. This will only turn out badly for him if the int'l press can make these absurd charges "stick", give him no chance for a rebuttal, etc. It will take them longer than they realize to "finish" him.

In fact, this morning when I turned on my TV, a CNN reporter was declaring authoritatively (without, of course, citing any surveys or statistics), that (if my recollection of her words is correct) "Sarkozy is now the most hated man in France."

Ugh. And bull. Who was the turd saying that - do you remember?

At 1:26 PM, November 09, 2005, Blogger Kierkegaard said...

The version I read of Sarkozy's original comments was that he had been holding a TV interview at one of the 'non-droit' suburbs when both his party and the TV crew were stoned by a group of 'youths'. It was after that he referred to his attackers as 'racaille' or scum. This is a term which resonates with most French citizens, since that's pretty much how they feel about most immigrants anyway. Sarkozy is definitely out with the RPR for now--Chirac has a relationship of almost sexual dependency on the ludicrous de Villepin, but he may well be back to contest the 2007 general election. If Le Pen survives long enough to run against de Villepin, instead, he might actually win, despite the best efforts of the media.

I lived in Paris for five years as an illegal immigrant, though I was worshipped by the French, due to my great personal charm and arrogance. At that time all the Paris bakeries featured a chocolate ball delicacy called 'Tete-de-Negre', or 'N-word-Head', often displayed in shop windows; this, I think sums up their deep, atavistic liberalism quite nicely. 'Con', incidentally, does not mean 'dickhead'--it means 'c*nt', in the British sense, and is where we got the word in the first place (from its original Latin).

Great site, btw.

At 2:52 PM, November 09, 2005, Blogger Ymarsakar said...

Survivor, not something a martial virtue advocate and a non-political proponent would like.

Too much politics. Not enough killing for me.

At 9:52 AM, November 10, 2005, Anonymous armchairpessimist said...

THanks for the correct meaning of 'con'; it makes 'neoneocon' even more amusing. Hope our hostess doesn't mind.

At 10:24 AM, November 10, 2005, Blogger pst314 said...

Interesting article.

Unfortunately, Brussels Journal displays malicious pop-up ads. They offer to clean the Windows Registry but are really trojans to install adware/spyware. They come from this site:


At 12:06 PM, November 10, 2005, Blogger pst314 said...

Brussels Journal reports that they have fixed the problem with pop-up ads.

At 2:59 PM, November 10, 2005, Blogger Ymarsakar said...

Ya, it means whenever "conservative" is said in French by the French... it means something totally different than what it means in English.

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