Tomorrow the French go to the polls to vote in the first round of their presidential elections.
The French, they vote on Sundays, because, as is well known, they are against God.
They are also against Nicolas Sarkozy, the nation’s current president. Who is seeking a second term. But who now seems less likely to serve again as president, than Tom Thumb, Wile E. Coyote, or a petri dish of scabies.
Sarkozy’s own prime minister, Francois Fillon, has decreed: “the carrots are cooked.” Fillon’s predecessor, Jean-Pierre Raffarin, moans “there is no chance of us winning.”
It is part of being French to occasionally embark upon an unfortunate love affair. That is what happened here. The French electorate, heady with too much cheap political wine, hallucinated that Sarkozy was the man of their dreams. But, the morning after, they awoke to discover that he is actually an animal. Somehow they had slipped between the sheets with a truly strange and unnatural creature, a sort of cross between a ferris wheel and a werewolf, a Dr. Moreau melange of an avaricious dwarf and a bad-tempered pot-bellied pig.
And this realization set in almost literally upon the morning after.
Five years ago, as the electorate prepared to engage in its usual scorn of Yahweh by trudging to the polls on Sunday, victory for Sarkozy was assured. Publicly, Sarkozy piously proclaimed that, once the voters had officially spoken, he would for a time retire from public view: he would enter a monastery, there to “rest, retreat. I must prepare myself to occupy this place. I need calm and serenity to find the necessary distance.”
Privately, however, he gloated: “I will have a palace in Paris, a castle in Rambouillet, and a fort in Bregancon. That’s the way it will be.”
And, once the votes were tallied, he threw a lavish election-night party for a small coterie of his wealthiest supporters, in the swank brassiere Fouquet’s, then flew off the next morning for a leisurely cruise off the coast of Malta, aboard a 200-foot yacht owned by his billionaire corporate-raiding pal Vincent Bollore.
As Philip Gourevitch writes in a December 2011 profile in The New Yorker:
Fouquet’s and the yacht: even now, when the French discuss their contempt for Sarkozy the conversation tends to turn quickly back to the impression he made in those first few days after the election—the ostentation, the exclusivity, the strutting, nouveau-riche vulgarity.
And it’s not like he has since changed.
Last fall, presiding over the opening of a traveling exhibition of modern art, Sarkozy could fix only on money. ”That cost millions,” he observed of a painting by Yves Klein. “Is a Klein more than a Leger? Less than a Matisse?”
Uncomfortable with his close relationship with George II, the French took to calling him “Sarko the American.” To which Sarkozy replied: “they consider it an insult, but I take it as a compliment”—an outrage that, in an earlier era, would have sent his head rolling into a basket.
When the Obamas entered the White House, Sarkozy shoveled to the Obama daughters several editions of a French comic book. “Were there not other works to offer to them that would evoke French genius?” wailed Franck Mouchi in Le Monde, opining that a non-buffoon French president would have presented Sasha and Malia with Proust.
Because he is French, Sarkozy while in office switched wives. He entered office married to Cecilia, who had earlier warned: “I don’t see myself as First Lady; it bores me.” When she left Sarkozy to return to her lover, the president took up with Carla Bruni, a woman famously bored by monogamy, who has publicly sighed that “burning desire” lasts only about two weeks. Bruni, she Sarkozy promptly squired to Euro Disney. Which caused a member of his own government to rend his garments, as “Euro Disney is the worst image in France for someone who is already seen as uncultured.”
When, during an audience with the Pope, Sarkozy pounded away at his Blackberry, French philosopher Pascal Bruckner moaned that “he desecrates everything,” pronouncing Sarkozy “a figure from Italian comedy.” Sarkozy’s former friend Bernard-Henri Levy has stated that Sarkozy, “in morphing as he has from a questionable but imposing statesman to a quaint, Warholian character, may now interest only folklorists, or students of political curiosities.” Dominique de Villepin, who will probably be charged with salvaging the wreckage Sarkozy has made of the French center-right, describes “Sarkozyism” as “the marriage on a dissecting table of the sewing machine and the umbrella. Sarkozyism is surrealism.”
Sarkozy has even heaved cheese out of the presidential palace. He doesn’t like it, so he doesn’t want it around. He also eschews wine, in favor of Diet Coke. Guzzling Diet Coke, while tossing wheels of cheese into the garbage, is the French equivalent of Barack Obama placing a baby, a crucifix, and a legless soldier on the White House lawn, and then peeing on them.
Presidential chef Bernard Vaussion, cooking for his fifth French head of state, recently confessed that Sarkozy does not permit cheese in his kitchen.
According to Vaussion, Sarkozy banished cheese because “it was too much” for him.
Sarkozy had earlier groused that German Chancellor Angela Merkel “says she is on a diet and then helps herself to a second helping of cheese.”
Once Sarkozy ripped cheese completely off the table, invading Germans were no longer able to gorge themselves on the stuff.
It is believed that Sarkozy’s own dietary desires may lie behind the cheese banishment.
On the advice of his former supermodel wife, Carla, 13 years his junior, the one-time chocoholic president has been on a draconian fitness and nutrition programme for most of his presidency, served a frugal diet of fish, vegetables, salads and sorbets. Cottage cheese, it is believed, still makes the grade.
Some blamed the low-calorie diet on Mr Sarkozy collapsing in 2009 during one of his gruelling daily jogs.
However, out on the campaign trail, Sarkozy has allowed himself to enter the presence of cheese.
[H]e kicked off his re-election campaign with a visit to a cheese-making factory in the Alpine city of Annecy, also stoically accepting chocolate, crepes and sausages from shopkeepers.
He then spent four hours at Paris’s annual agricultural fair accepting offerings of langoustine, chocolate and Reblochon cheese.
This being France, foodstuffs have continued to play a role in the presidential campaign. Here in the Final Days, Sarkozy has become so desperate—yea, even deranged—that he has taken to campaigning against meat.
In recent weeks, Mr Sarkozy warned that French “identity” was menaced by a tide of illegal immigration, Islamist terrorism and halal meat.
Sarkozy has also ululated that the Socialist candidate, Francois Hollande, would destroy the French economy “in two days,” and is now routinely derided as an actual hallucinatory madman, after claiming, falsely, that he toured Fukushima after it became a dead zone.
“This is the first time in the history of the French republic,” Hollande observed mildly, “that a candidate has told of a voyage he never made.”
When once Hollande enters the presidential palace, chef Vaussion hopes that cheese may again be allowed on the premises.
If, as the polls predict, the Socialist François Hollande wins power, the Elysée chef may be asked to bring back the gooey stuff.
However, Mr Hollande has also been on a strict diet in a bid to shed his unfortunate nickname of Flanby—a wobbly caramel custard dessert.
“There is always uncertainty. We will see, it will be up to him to decide,” said Mr Vaussion wistfully.
It is a measure of just how far into the outer limits of buffoonery Sarkozy has strayed, that a relative non-entity like Hollande is expected to be France’s next president.
Not even Hollande seems to believe it. Of late he has taken to making nervous, nebbishy comments, doubting his own inevitability.
“It is in these next hours that many in France will make their choice. I can see that there is still some hesitation on whether or not to go out to vote,” Hollande told AFP in an interview.
“I can feel each day the support but also the apprehension, as if something could happen to prevent us from succeeding,” Hollande said.
“And it is true, the game is not over, nothing is done,” Hollande said.
Hollande has never before campaigned for national political office. And he appears to be gifted with the ability to drive people away in droves.
[T]he limitations of “Hollandism” were apparent. He failed to fill a giant pop-concert venue from which most seats had been cleared. The crowd of 15,000 cheered his rhetoric against “big finance” but became fidgety as Mr Hollande explained the minutiae of his plans.
This is typical of the French left. Although the French people are left-bent by nature, in recent decades the political left has been so dysfunctional that it has rhythmically succeeded in staying out of power.
Then he ran wild in New York with a maid.
Arrested for rape, Strauss-Kahn was publicly perp-walked before the cameras of the world, in what ex-Sarkozy pal Levy correctly identified as “the Robespierrism of the sideshow.” A repugnant carnival that led Dominique Moïsi to observe, correctly, that “the case does damage to the image of America and recreates negative stereotypes that existed before. Now this feeling is reinforced—that the United States is not a fully civilized country, with a police that behaves like that, that wants to humiliate. There is a sense that it’s a dangerous country.”
Charges were dropped when Strauss-Kahn’s accuser was discovered to be a sort of perpetual-motion machine of lies, but nonetheless he was finished. Particularly when he arrived back in France to be confronted with a river of additional women, flowing out of his past, to accuse him of acts that washed higher than mere numbnuts horndog, cresting into the criminal.
In 2002, the French were bored with serving president Jacques Chirac, who was also meanwhile embroiled in the sort of seamy corruption scandal that seems to eventually, inevitably, afflict all French chief executives (there’s one haunting Sarkozy now, involving mountains of bribes to Pakistani officials, to convince them to purchase French submarines).
But the Socialists also afflicted the electorate with ennui; the high-brow Curly, Moe, and Larry show among the party’s top officials, this could no longer be borne.
So, in the first round of voting, the people either stayed home, or cast ballots for some of the multitudinous “splinter” parties on the left, which travel under such rubrics as Worker’s Struggle; Left Radical Party; Revolutionary Communist League; Citizenship, Action, Participation for the 21st Century; and Hunting, Fishing, Nature, Traditions.
When the results were in, advancing to the second and final round were Chirac, who received 19.88% of the vote, and Jean-Marie Le Pen, who received 16.86%.
Le Pen is a former fascist street brawler, convicted Holocaust negationist, and Algerian War torturer, and his National Front is the French equivalent of the Republican Party in the US. Both are built on hatred, fear, animus against The Other, knuckledragging, de-evolution, and repealing the 20th Century.
That Le Pen and his Orc party had advanced to the final round, this was widely considered among the French to be the greatest humiliation the nation had suffered since German occupation.
Immediately officials of all non-Orc parties commanded their adherents to put aside all political differences, and wash over the polls, in the second round, like a veritable tidal wave, to drown Le Pen and his Orcs beneath a “national unity” vote for Chirac.
This was accomplished. In the second round, Chirac received 82.3% of the vote, and the Orcs 17.7%.
When in 2007 Sarkozy emerged out of Chirac’s people to seek to succeed the retiring president, he determined that victory involved playing the hard-ass, to blunt the challenge from Le Pen and the Orcs on the right. This meant appealing to the worst instincts of the French people, basically trying to climb into office upon the backs of the nation’s North African-immigrant population, which had noisily taken to the streets. Whereupon Sarkozy, orchestrating the police response, denounced the protestors as “rabble” he would “clean” from the streets with a “Karcher”—a high-pressure water-blaster for power-scrubbing, a device that, if applied to them, would shred human beings.
This year, for his re-election effort, Sarkozy has played the same tune. But to the credit of the French people, this time they’re tuning it out. This time, running from the right: that’s not where it’s at.
Since the last French presidential go-round, in 2007, Le Pen has turned over control of the National Front to his daughter, Marine, who has sought to put a “new face” on her father’s Orcs. But it is one that is in truth identical to the old . . . except that it is younger, female, and not physically ugly as the bottom of an old boot.
And this year it is quite possible that Marine and her Orcs 2.0 will not even finish third in the first round. Because there on the left, Jean-Luc Melenchon is peeling off working-class voters from the Orc party, by convincing them that their problem is less with brown people who eat halal meat, than with white people who cruise around in yachts.
Melenchon, an ex-Trotskyist, and more recently an apostate from Hollande’s Socialists, is more or less against money, and has vowed that under his government the wealthy will be required to dump all their euros into wheelbarrows, for transport to the state treasury, or themselves be placed in tumbrils.
While not as glow-in-the-dark demented as his crusade against halal meat, Sarkozy’s most unpalatable re-election effort to play the rightist hard-ass arrived in his summer 2010 mass-deportation campaign against the Roma.
In the context of recent French history, and of Sarkozy’s own personal history, this was nasty stuff.
For just as, because of its behavior in WWII, Germany should not be permitted to field an army for, oh, say, 10,000 years, France, because of its behavior during that same period, should not be in the business of mass-deporting anybody.
Down in the polls or no, Sarkozy should have known better than to play to the recurrent French penchant for discriminating against, even demonizing, the non-French.
Sarkozy might have taken a look at his own family tree. And seen that his father was a displaced Hungarian count who, despite fighting in the French Foreign Legion, was for decades officially regard as a “stateless person”; he did not receive French citizenship until the 1970s.
Sarkozy’s mother was the daughter of a Jewish surgeon born into the Sephardic Jewish community of Thessaloniki. Though Sarkozy’s maternal grandfather converted to Catholicism upon marrying, he and his entire family, including Sarkozy’s mother, were forced to flee Paris when the Germans rolled in during WWII, hiding out in a small farmhouse in Correze to escape arrest by the Gestapo.
Some 57 members of Sarkozy’s family, on his mother’s side, were extinguished during the Holocaust.
And it was the prolonged French anti-semitic persecution of French Army Captain Alfred Dreyfus that convinced Hungarian journalist Theodore Herzl that Jewish assimilation was an impossible dream, spurring him to found the Zionist movement. And it was the extreme anti-semitic exterminationalist writers of France, who poisoned Europe from the late 19th Century through the Holocaust, that moved writer Ron Rosenbaum, author of Explaining Hitler, to fulminate in a series of columns for the New York Observer that the realization of Zionism, a homeland for the Jewish people, should more properly have been carved out of France, rather than Palestine.
As de Villepin correctly observed, Sarkozy’s cynical campaign against the Roma “was a stain on our flag.”
Ala, she says to ascend to a position of national leadership, one must by nature be a sociopath.
Hard, here, as in so many elsewheres, to disagree.
Sarkozy is one of those people who, to salve the wounds he received in childhood, resolved to ascend above all. And there to mete out, in whatever way might seem suitable, his revenge.
“You want to know the difference between me and all those people? It’s quite simple. Beginning in the cradle, they were pampered and coddled and repeatedly told, ‘You’re the best, the most handsome, the most intelligent.’ And they studied at fancy schools. Look at how much the love themselves. I’m a different type. I’m the bastard. But there it is, the bastard is President of the Republic.”
Humans have to stop permitting to power such people.
Even Marine Le Pen—and her people, the deportations designed to appeal to—saw the Roma deportations for what they were.
[S]he was not impressed with Sarkozy’s campaign against the Roma. When I asked what she thought . . . she raised her hands to her mouth, one above the other, wiggling her fingers to imitate the Pied Piper, and made chirpy noises: Pi-po, pi-po. Teedle-ee, teedle-ee. “The problem is that Nicolas Sarkozy makes plenty of speeches, but he has big words and a weak hand,” she said. “He brought the Roma to a border that no longer exists, which they crossed again four minutes later before the eyes of dumbfounded journalists. It’s all theatre.”
Exactly. Le Pen sees it, though she doesn’t see it.
For in Europe, there really are, no longer, any borders. As there are no longer any borders anywhere in the world. Always they were a phantasm—”borders.” But now this is increasingly seen.
People like Le Pen and her Orcs—and their fellow Orcs throughout the world—wish to return to a world that is gone. One that is summarized by Le Pen as, in the context of France: “[w]e have a very Gaullist vision of France—its place in the world, its independence, that particular voice that is its own, its national sovereignty.”
As compared to Reality, as experienced by those of the Erasmus generation.
“I feel European rather than German,” said Riss, 34, who has lived in five European countries, speaks five languages and now runs Greenpeace’s office in Brussels. “I feel at home anywhere in Europe” . . . .
A growing number of young Europeans like Riss study, work and date across the Continent. Unlike their parents, who grew up within the confines of nationhood, they are multilingual and multicultural.
Stefan Wolff, a professor of political science at the University of Bath, in England, calls them the “Erasmus generation[.]“
When this generation takes the reins in coming decades, both in Brussels and in national capitals, it could produce a profound cultural shift, he says.
“For the first time in history, we’re seeing the seeds of a truly European identity,” Wolff said.
“They are not asked to give up their national or regional identity—they are asked to go beyond it, and that is what pulls them closer together,” said Figel[.] “We are creating a community in which diversity is not a problem, but a characteristic.”
“And you!” Sarkozy shouted at one of them. “I’ve no evidence against you. But it would seem you’re a pedophile.“Who told me? I have an inner conviction. I’ve seen the intelligence reports, but I won’t tell you which ones. I’ve seen someone, but I won’t tell you who, and it was word of mouth.“But I have an inner conviction—you’re a pedophile. Can you explain yourself?”The Guardian reported that he went on in this vein for ten minutes, then walked away, saying, “See you tomorrow, pedophile friends.”