Now, please note that PYY supports no candidate, because the editor-in-chief is not a French citizen and cannot vote. But even if he did, he still wouldn't support a candidate. But that doesn't mean we won't be observant, lauditory, and critical, when the situation avails. And it looks like, in what appears to be a long campaign of punches and counter-punches, the IHT is reporting that Segelene Royale (Sego), Socialist candidate for president, has made a mistake. And two of her closest rivals have taken full advantage of it.
Ségolène Royal traveled to the Middle East hoping to show that she could shine on the international stage as brightly as she did at home as she became the Socialist Party candidate for the French presidency.
She waded into the intricacies of the Middle East crisis with gusto - only to get tripped up in Lebanon.
Royal failed to react immediately when a Hezbollah lawmaker with whom she met Friday compared Israel's former occupation of Lebanon and that of the Nazis in France during World War II.
Then the response.
The next day, as criticism mounted, Royal insisted that she simply had not heard the remark, which was made in Arabic and translated for French reporters covering her trip. Royal, who had a different translator, said she would have left the meeting in protest if she had heard. The comments, she said, were "unacceptable, abominable and hateful."
The camp of Nicolas Sarkozy, Royal's leading challenger on the French right, led the criticism. Sarkozy's party said Royal's five-day trip had been "poorly prepared" and "useless for peace."
Defense Minister Michèle Alliot- Marie suggested that Royal might have endangered French lives in Lebanon, where France has 1,500 troops in the peacekeeping force sent by the United Nations to monitor the cease-fire between Israel and Hezbollah.
In sports (most notably basketball and football), mistakes can and often do, cost teams games. Turnovers are the worst kind of mistake and while you never want to put your opponent in a better position than he/she would have been in anyway, these things still have a way of happening. Turn the ball over and you give your foe, an opportunity that he/she did not earn.
One of the best ways to lose any game is to commit too many of them. So, when you do fumble or lose your dribble, you must find the handle and correct the mistake, or regroup after your opponent has effectively made you pay for the error.
Whether politics is a metaphor for sports or sports is a metaphor for politics, makes little difference. What does matter is, they are so very similar and much can be learned about how political consultants conduct campaigns, from drawing an analogous comparison. They do the coaching, the candidate does the playing, and so on.
One thing to realize is, an inexperienced coach can be made to look good, if he has people playing for him/her that are experienced. By contrast, an experienced coach can make a bunch of inexperienced players look good. But when you have an inexperienced coach and an inexperienced team, it's a recipe for disaster.
I am not sure who is running Ms. Royale's campaign, much less how much experience he/she has. But in my view, her decision to even meet with a Hezbollah official (elected or not) was ill-advised to begin with. By appearing with a member of a terrorist organization that calls for the total destruction of the state of Israel, she has put herself at risk, politically, in a European country that prides itself on sound and smart foreign policy.
As one of Sarko's handlers says:
"Accepting to speak with a member of Hezbollah, which advocates the destruction of Israel, was already a mistake,"
"Letting him insult France's allies, whether they are the United States or Israel, without reacting, is another serious mistake."
It's clear that Sego does lack a certain amount of experience, on the world stage. But that doesn't necessarily translate into a loss, either.
Many leaders have gotten themselves elected not on their resume, ideology, or stances on the individual issues; many have gotten themselves elected, because they sell themselves primarily as a populist candidate that offers new ideas/solutions to the issues that face the people, doing the voting. Often times, the new ideas are not discussed at any great length, neither are they explained fully. This is one of the biggest criticisms, I have heard about her
You see, populist candidates spend a lot of time traveling around, getting photo-ops in here and there, generally manipulating the news soundbites. But they shy away from substance, due to the fact that they are riding a wave of "star" status and do not pay a proper amount of attention to the details. That, in turn (sometimes) creates an enormous risk for mistakes, mainly, because they (can and sometimes do) get caught up in the moment and are mesmerized by all of the newly discovered attention.
So Sego, the aesthetically pleasing populist candidate, has just turned the ball over to her more experienced and better skilled opponents (due to inexperience) and her critics cannot let the opportunity slip by, without a response. It's a fair response and it's not unexpected.
Now, the questions become:
Can she recover? Probably. But if she does, at very least, she's going to need a better translator. Will she work to cut down mistakes like this, in the future? I have no answer, but one thing is for sure. She had better.
Because if she cannot effectively run a campaign for president without committing grievous errors along the way, we have to wonder, how would that effectively persuade the French electorate to entrust her with such an important office? That's the million euro question, everyone would love to know, right now.
And then, how would she conduct the more serious foreign affairs that the French have long prided themselves on? That's what the French people need to decide, when they make that cast that vote, next year.
But even more importantly, we must all ask these questions:
With the last two presidential elections in America and the last German election being so close, it has shown that there is a trend towards divided political landscapes; and assuming that Sego will maintain her popularity in the coming months, will France follow suit?
And if so, how will it affect the tone of the French election as the big day/days gets/get closer?