Emmanuel Macron, the French establishment’s version of an outsider
I make no claim to expertise on French domestic politics, but this rookie 39-year-old Emmanuel Macron, supposedly a shoe-in for president of France because his run-off opponent, Marine Le Pen, is sooooo scary, looks as if he was found in a casting call. My spidey-sense is cautioning me that he's a set-up, intended to keep the Paris swamp undrained.
AFP, the French news agency paints quite a picture of a youthful change agent:
"Neither of the right, nor the left" in his own words, Emmanuel Macron is a 39-year-old former banker hoping to convince the French to take a chance on his brand of youthful optimism. ...
After quitting his job as economy minister under unpopular Socialist President Francois Hollande in August, he has concentrated on building up his own centrist political movement "En Marche" ("On the Move"). ...
"We can't respond with the same men and the same ideas," Macron said as he launched his presidential bid in November at a jobs training centre in a gritty Parisian suburb.
With frustration at France's political class running high, Macron has tapped into a desire for wholesale change that has also propelled far-right candidate Marine Le Pen and leftist Jean-Luc Melenchon.
"I'm here because he's young, he's dynamic. It's like a breath of fresh air," 23-year-old shop worker Marine Gonidou told AFP at a rally in Brittany in January.
At 39, Macron would be the youngest French leader in modern history, upending tradition that has seen voters favour experience in their powerful presidents.
He even called his campaign book "Revolution." So what kind of revolutionary is he?
He was trained at the ultra-elite École nationale d'administration, from which France's ruling technocrats have been drawn for generations. He worked for the French government as an "inspector" of finances and then went to work for the Rothschild Bank in Paris, where he made millions of dollars. He received a senior appointment from François Hollande's first government in 2012, as minister of economy, industry, and digital affairs, but he resigned when Hollande became so unpopular that it might damage his own prospects.
And, for a little spice, he married his high school teacher, who was 24 years older than he and was married and had two kids. The romance started when he was 15, but don't worry – they waited until he was 18 to go public. The kind of people who make such jokes contend that this is a cover for him being gay. Who knows? Who cares?
And just as President Reagan did archetypal activities relating to our national myths – clearing brush wearing a cowboy hat – Macron speaks to French cultural obsessions.
The choice to dine in La Rotonde in the Montparnasse neighborhood fits with Macron's literary leanings – he quotes poets and philosophers in his campaign rallies.
While Macron insists he's neither left nor right, La Rotonde has a "caviar left" feel. It has an anti-establishment flavor though too, thanks to the surrealist painters associated with its past.
So very anti-establishment that obviously the political establishment would be worried, don't you think? Maybe not:
German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel says it is important for France and for Europe that Emmanuel Macron win the French presidential runoff election.
Speaking in Amman, Jordan, Gabriel said: "It's important for France because he has the courage and the strength to lead the country out of its lethargy."
He adds that a Macron victory would signal a "new beginning for Europe," but he says a win by Marine Le Pen would "push Europe deeper into crisis."
The centrist Macron is the early favorite to defeat Le Pen, the candidate of the far right[.]
I have plenty of worries about Le Pen, and people I respect (Spengler, Krauthammer) warn that she could be a disaster if the E.U. falls apart.
But Macron does not pass the smell test.