François Will Bring the Croissants*
* "croissants" = flaky, buttery, crescent-shaped pastry; "croissance" = growth
Well, that's settled! Angela will provide the meat and potatoes, and François will bring the croissants. From each according to his means, to each according to his needs. Now you understand why Nicolas Sarkozy lost the election. He never thought of that quick fix while running back and forth between Paris and Berlin last winter, even when his wife Carla was in labor. The upshot was that Giulia, cooing and growing far from the camera's eye -- we've never seen the tiniest image of the former president's daughter -- and French media pissing on Sarkozy for letting Brunhilde Merkel dictate the terms of what has come to be known as the infamous austerity pact.
Now the victorious François is transforming France, Europe, and the world. He promised he would go to Berlin, to Washington, to the G8, and let them know that "French voters have spoken." They don't want austerity. The Greeks don't want austerity. The Spanish are sick to death of it, the Italians are fed up, the Portuguese are feverish, and those who haven't caught it yet are terrified of contagion. They want croissance!
French media love François. They hated Nicolas with a vengeance. They made fun of him for being short. Now that President Hollande is the same height, it's not an issue. Le Monde looks on with tender indulgence as the new president, jumping from his provincial sinecure to the highest office, bumbles awkwardly into international meetings like a mistaken identity comic: "... he's still a bit out of step in the midst of the world leaders. If he hasn't acquired Barack Obama's relaxed casual look or the snobbish ease of David Cameron at least he's not stiff like the austere Angela Merkel." So what if Hollande misses cues, arrives late for his own press conferences, and missed Obama's opening remarks at the NATO Conference, and so what if the only thing he wants to do ahead of schedule is pull French troops out of Afghanistan? With a flip of the wrist, he turned the Eurozone from austerity to croissants.
Merkel, we are told here, is isolated. Everyone else wants to have fun, and the stolid lady (don't forget, she's up for re-election next year) says the party's over. Bailed-out Greece wants to stay in the Eurozone and back down on the harsh, humiliating austerity agreement signed a few months ago. François wants Euro-wide stimulus spending, public works projects, luscious investments (green energy, anyone?) and eurobonds that will bundle German prosperity with Greek debt, Spanish bankruptcy, Italian distress, French neo-socialism, and a basket full of small nations with holes in their socks, and madame Merkel says nein. Is anyone thinking she might add: "Instead of a Grexit let's imagine a Gerkout, vershtaiste? Germany pulls out, and you guys can publish all the Eurobonds your hearts desire"? The project would lose its luster!
It seems that English-speaking readers lost interest in France sometime back in 2003. Some are still recycling surrender jokes. Hey guys, what about Libya? The French president -- it was Sarkozy then-- tried pulling his American counterpart by a ring in his nose, but B. H. Obama, fed up with American "hyperpuissance," chose to lead from behind. I'm not saying that the final result is blue skies and flowers; it's just an example of how things change. Especially when everyone is distracted by incessant tweeting. The current string of incidents in Syria demonstrates the rapid acceleration of leading from behind.
Well, I think you should be attentive to the tide of events in France, and it's not just because I live here. Grant me that dose of objectivity. One good reason? There's a war going on, and we're all in it together. That old adage "all's fair in love and war" doesn't apply to Western nations anymore. We are expected to respect a higher standard. Unless and until the enemy beheads us, we are supposed to be rational, reasonable, humane, tolerant, hospitable, generous, decent, well-organized, high-tech, etc. All the reasons for which the enemy wants to live among us, smear and slime us, pick our pockets, break our locks, move into our houses, and sit in our seats of power.
So how about love? France still rhymes -- in free verse--with amour, and my only regret is that I cannot share with you the net revelations of a ring around the Socialist rosy that puts the whole political scene in perspective. How am I supposed to know if it's true that the ex-concubine of the newly elected Xxx had a fling with the recently appointed xxx minister, and that's why the current concubine didn't want him in that position? Is it true that she also put her foot down to prevent the mayor of Xxx from getting a juicy cabinet post so that his or her deputy could become mayor? But what's wrong with that? Well, it seems that the said deputy is the mother of what you call a love-child-fathered by...I dare not say who. Even though I heard it from two sources. And they concur: she discovered the fruit of this liaison already ripened to the age of 20+ and kicked him out! That's why the current concubine didn't want the long-lost love to become mayor of Xxx. With all those concubines, you'd think we were in China, but this is France, mes amis, and even the official biography is succulente. To wit: François Hollande and Valerie Trierweiler (ha! "trier" means "sort out"), who have known each other close to forever and definitely while some of the above innuendos were going on, have been lovers since 2005 but went public only in 2010.
François Hollande and Ségolène Royal lived in "union libre" for three decades. Here, in a vintage (1992) news report, the minister of the environment royal introduces the public to their newborn fourth child, Flora. In 2007, French media prattled about how cool it was that Socialist party chief François Hollande and Socialist presidential candidate Ségolène Royal could live as a couple while behaving, politically, with consummate professionalism. Très bien, except for the fact that all the journalists knew that the two had long since drifted apart. She officially kicked him out after losing to Nicolas Sarkozy.
(I just lost my sense of humor. Why? Because I just did some fact-checking and stumbled upon "Valerie Trierweiler la juive." Déjà! The cyber-gutter is already hissing. The woman has power, so she has to be a Jew, right?)
In the euphoric victory days, President Hollande went here and there -- honoring this one, thanking that one, seeing and being seen with happy campers, including François Mitterand's extracurricular daughter Mazarine Pingeot, who grew up like a princess under the protection of the monarch's secret services and on the riches of the public purse. Her coming out -- at Mitterand's funeral, side by side with his widow and her sons -- was praised as the ultimate in elegance.
And Madame Trierweiler is elegant, too, says the Huffington Post: "Style-wise, critics have praised Trierweiler for her chic fashion sense; she dons stylish scarves (very French!) and opts for classic silhouettes that give her an aura of elegance." She does have the French touch and is quite photogenic (see the photo gallery in the aforementioned article). That's why I was surprised to discover her thick legs, broad hips, and unflattering election night outfit. A week later, Cécile Duflot came to the inaugural male-female-parity cabinet meeting in horse's-rump jeans. I wasn't the only one to notice. The press was all over it, and the PM must have dressed her down -- or, more exactly, up. She came to the next meeting in a dark short skirt and black knee-high boots...apparently indifferent to the bursting out of springtime. The temperature was in the high 70s that day.
Well, the voters wanted a change, and they got it. Out with the slim, trim, upscale, high-heeled lovelies of the Sarkozy government; in with the broad-hipped ladies in plain clothes, flat shoes, and colorless coiffures. Except for the well-named Fleur Pellerin and the French-Algerian film director Yamina Benguigui...see for yourself. Politics is merciless, and even more so for women. Witness the deplaning on the eve of the NATO meeting in Chicago: President Hollande first and solo, followed by Trierweiler with no one to hold her arm as she negotiates the stairs in high-heeled platform sandals and unlovely legs, followed by Barack and Michelle holding hands, rapping and smiling as they dance down the stairs with youthful grace. Enough to make you forget Michelle's dirndl skirt!
We'll see which way the trend goes. The current cabinet is a sort of gerrymandered, tribal, vote-getting makeshift affair proportioned to increase the chances of getting a clear Socialist majority at the Assemblée Nationale. After the votes are counted on June 17, we'll find out where this government really intends to go. Forward to pragmatic social democracy? Backward to rigid ideological socialism? Round in circles of internecine squabbles? Wherever.
But who would have thought they'd bring back the ancien régime?
Comrade Hollande, the populace has no bread. Qu'ils mangent de la brioche -- or rather, de la croissance! They have no bread? Let them eat croissants.
Nidra Poller is an associate fellow of the Middle East Forum.