Tuesday, December 05, 2006


PYY began covering the French presidential election a while back with this post here, and later continued here.

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?


Greg said...

LAS: Good post - I love French politics.

On the Lebanon incident, if you think that Sego will pay for this poltically, I think you are mistaken. Cozying up to arab terrorists & dictators is a cornerstone of French arab politics. Remember Chirac weeping at the grave of Yasser Arafat? Despite the fact that Hezbollah has killed more French than any other terrorist organization, France has not declared it a terrorist organization. And despite the fact that Hezbollah is actively trying to destroy the democratic govn't France helped make possible, it won't take the slightest step vs. Hezbollah.

So that's why she was meeting with terrorists - the Quai d'Orsay considers them a legitimate political force. And many French people see Hezbollah and Israel as equally bad. Many others see Hezbollah as virtuous and Israel as murderous.

Sarko, on the other hand, isn't going to mark any points by sticking up for Israel and the US.

On the "populist" tag, I don't think Sego has earned it. She's a party girl (by that I mean she's a long-time Socialist Party operative, though I bet she also like to par-tay!). The populists in France are le Pen the fascist and Arlette Laguiller the trotskyite. And I think this is le Pen's best chance to win. He has done better in every election than the one before, and last time he was #2. His only obstacle is obtaining the signatures of 500 mayors on his nomination papers. It looks like this could be an issue for him.

Anyway, the 2 strongest candidates in my eyes are Sego and le Pen. Sarko is seen as too pro-American/British, too free market.

LASunsett said...

Hi Greg and thanks,

//On the "populist" tag, I don't think Sego has earned it. She's a party girl (by that I mean she's a long-time Socialist Party operative, though I bet she also like to par-tay!).//

Probably not in the traditional sense of the word, populist. She doesn't have that maverick edge to her like many that earn that title. But I remember Gary Hart being termed as a populist during the Democratic primaries back in 1984.

New ideas, new solutions, all for the people. Blah, blah, blah.

SF is seems to think she is the best thing since peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. From what little coverage I have been able to read/watch, she does appear to be a media darling.

I will say this: If she wins, you'll hear the triumphant cries of the Clintonites. I can hear it now. "First Merkel, then Sego, now it's time for Hillary." That would be a definite "gimme" for those that would run her campaign. Doesn't mean she has any kind lock, but she gets a jumpstart.

Greg said...

//SF is seems to think she is the best thing since peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.//

Ha, ha! That's b/c he likes pretty women (although, as any self-respecting frenchman, I doubt he thinks peanut butter is all that)!

I look at the governor's race this year in my state, and wonder why people voted for Patrick, the winner. I think they liked the way he looked and talked. He never said anything of substance. In all seriousness, I think this has a lot to do with Sego's success - looks.

That's why Hillary can't ride Sego's coattails. She's hideous and fat. And the left hates her. And so does the right. She'll never win.

Greg said...

For those that read French, here's a link to a le Monde editorial about the incident.


They point out how socialist Jospin in 2000, at the time PM, was criticized for denouncing a "terrorist attack" by Hezbollah. Chirac was pissed at him for appearing to change France policy of "impartiality" and for using the word "terrorist."

Also, though it appears Sego was too afraid to put Hezbollah in its place (can't say I blame her, really, in light of all the people they're killing these days), she had no problem criticizing American foreign policy on her trip. Okay to criticize America, but not okay to criticize Hezbollah. French foreign policy in a nutshell.

Greg said...

Sorry for monopolizing your thread, LAS, but I found what Segolene said about America.

The Hezbollah deputy was fuming about the "infinite dementia of the American administration," and
Ségolène agreed: "There are many things that you say that I share," citing as an example "the analysis of the role of the United States."

No controversy about that statement, though.....

LASunsett said...

Don't worry about it Greg, post all the comments you want. Bedsides, there doesn't appear to be a lot of people, trying to get a word in.

Sometimes it's feast of famine around here. If I say something really controversial, I get bombarded. This must not be that controversial.

LASunsett said...

Make the feast OR famine.

LASunsett said...

Hell, I even screwed the correction up. I give up. It never fails, when I am multi-tasking and in a hurry.

L'Amerloque said...

Hi Greg !

/*/In all seriousness, I think this has a lot to do with Sego's success - looks./*/

Greg is right up there with M et Mme Amerloque on that one. (grin)

"Segohaine" ("Sego-hate", for lurking non-Francophones) certainly doesn't have the gravitas to represent France, in Amerloque's view. She is stumbling around the Middle Eastern powderkeg like a New York cityslicker reporter at the OK Corral. She apparently hasn't the faintest idea of what's going on. She called for "an international conference" on the Middle East … hey, there's already a conference coming up in Paris in January, 2007, which she apparently was unaware of.

She even refused to shake the hand of Francoise de Panafieu, tipped to be the right's candidate as Mayor of Paris in the forthcoming "municipales". ("Je ne vous salue pas, Madame" !)

Day after day, she is demonstrating why she wouldn't be a good President.

'Course, Sarko is putting his foot into it just as much. He's going to lose quite a few votes, Amerloque feels, because of his stance on affirmative action ("Yes.").

Why ? Well, when one speaks to Jean-Marie Le Pen's supporters, one is immediately struck (well, at least Amerloque is struck, anyway … ) by one recurring theme: he constantly hears There's a lot for "them" and nothing for "us"."Them", in this context, means "immigrants", of whatever color, stripe, religion, or race, and "us" means native-born French nationals.

The latter see the fruits of their work and taxes – and the work of their forebears – apparently being freely given to millions of new arrivals – including billions of euros in housing allowances and unemployment benefits. What they, the nationals, had to work for, they feel, the new arrivals have for free. It's not simply a racial question, in their eyes: there are "maghrebians" and "blacks" in the Front National, after all. It is a question of the "new arrivals receiving everything they need and want". The "them vs us" argument is reinforced in their eyes when one throws what they see as declining schools, violence in schools, street violence, and the staggering healthcare system. (Note that Amerloque is not endorsing or condemning this argument – or portions of it - at all: he is simply attempting to sum it up in as dispassionate a manner as possible.)

A lot of people in the UMP have similar misgivings about the whole "affirmative action" issue, as well as the "carte scolaire" (the "school map": "go to the closest school to your home" is currently the policy: Sarko wants to change that to "go to any school you want".)

What remains to be seen is how the "primary election" at the majority UMP party pans out. Will it be a real primary, or a loud scam for the peanut gallery ? Will Michele Alliot-Marie and Nicolas Dupont-Aignan have their say, and will their views be taken into consideration by the party ?

Amerloque knows many UMP guys and gals (old and young) who will not vote UMP, they say, if "affirmative action" is maintained in the platform. In that case, many of them will lean either toward de Villiers or toward Le Pen, if the latter obtains his 500 sponsors (Hi SF !).

De Villiers rubs a lot of people the wrong way, as an opportunist and as a smarmy-marmy "Old France" type.

So the UMP people who don't like affirmative action might abstain - or vote for Le Pen.

Amerloque wouldn't be surprised, by the way, to see a second round presidential runoff election between Royal and Le Pen.

LP might even pull down 22% or 23% of the vote in the first round, according to Amerloque's ballpark estimate … people are really unhappy.


LASunsett said...

Hi Amerloque,

Sounds like you are not a member of the Sego brigades.

//the "school map": "go to the closest school to your home" is currently the policy: Sarko wants to change that to "go to any school you want"//

This was tried in the Indianapolis Public Schools (most of which are in the inner city), in the early 90s, under the catchy name of "Select Schools". While I feel it looked good on paper, it was a logistical nightmare. It was canned after one year. The Superintendent that implemented it, was canned too. And thus began a long period of instability and power struggles, in the IPS.

L'Amerloque said...

Hi LAS !

She's out to lunch, as old California slang had it. (grin)

She has absolutely no idea of what is going on in the world around her. It is staggering.

This morning it has been announced by the Socialist Party spokesman that Segohaine is postponing her visit to the USA which was scheduled for next week.

Why ? Scheduling problems, mostly.

Reading the news report carefully, though …

//La candidate socialiste "voulait essayer, en allant aux Etats-Unis, de mettre en place ou de réfléchir à la possibilité d'améliorer la collaboration entre la France et les Etats unis en matière de recherche", a ajouté le porte-parole de Ségolène Royal.

Selon lui, elle partait avec l'intention "de comprendre pourquoi plusieurs dizaines de milliers de chercheurs Français étaient partis aux Etats-Unis et de voir à partir de là quelle était ou quelles étaient les solutions".//


//"The Socialist candidate 'in going to the USA wanted to establish or think about an opportunity for improving the cooperation between France and the USA concerning research', added Segolene Royal's spokesman.

According to him, she was going with the 'intention 'to understand why several tens of thousands of French researchers had gone to the USA and to envisage which solution (s) was (were) possible.'//

If she doesn't know why they left France, it means, basically, that she has no idea of

- the French educational system;
- the capitalist system;
- manufacturing and industry;
- the links between France and the USA;
- American society;
- recent French history;

and a whole slew of other things. (sigh)