May 8, 2007

Meanwhile, our oldest friend France has a new President.

Does he remind you of anyone?
[Nicolas] Sarkozy is unabashedly pro-American, a man who openly proclaims his love of Ernest Hemingway, Steve McQueen and Sylvester Stallone and his admiration for America’s strong work ethic and its belief in upward mobility.

The last film that made Mr. Sarkozy cry was Robert Altman’s “A Prairie Home Companion.” He once said he wanted Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive” as his victory song. He calls himself “proud” to wear the label “Sarkozy the American.”
America! We've got Stallone, Garrison Keillor, and disco.


AllenS said...

Ronald Reagan?

Bart Hall (Kansas, USA) said...

Except for the fact that the cattle are dark, rather then grey, this photo could be from the Puszta in Hungary, which is all the explanation needed.

Hungary has two deep social themes: they have a remarkably deep connection with the land, and particularly horses. In fact, the Magyars (Magyarok, what plural do I use here?) were militarily brilliant horse nomads, originally from Altay in east central Asia until settling in what is now Hungary a thousand years ago.

The second major social theme was that of their close political and cultural connection to Austria, which also involved horses in a big way.

Sarkozy (in Hungarian it would be pronounced SHAR-kozy)is therefore being quite faithful to his origins. I'll guarantee there's not one gram of affectation in that photo.

Interestingly enough, there are also two minor themes in Hungarian culture that echo down to our own times. They were under Muslim rule for most of the 16th and 17th centuries. They hated it.

There is also small but powerful socialist/communist thread -- usually urban Jews, who briefly formed a Communist government after WWI. We see this even today in the case of Mr. Soros [pr. SHO-rush].

One personal anecdote. My father-in-law is Hungarian. You can read his remarkable story at Winds-of-Change (October '06. 'Temetni Tudunk'). My mother-in-law is a rather left-wing Dutch woman, who has never become an American citizen.

After she commented repeatedly about what a reliable Democrat voter my FiL is, he took me aside quietly and said in that delightful accent of his:

"You know, the best thing about America is the secret ballot."

Fritz said...

France has elected Alexis de Tocqueville. Viva la France!

Cyrus Pinkerton said...

I didn't know anyone openly admitted to loving Stallone.

bill said...

I didn't know anyone openly admitted to loving Stallone.

A lot can be forgiven once you've sat through his touching portrayal of Machine Gun Joe Viterbo.

George said...

Yes, and Yuri Andropov loved the jazz cool and whiskey neat.

Even the most hostile foreign leader could pick some movie star and say he admired him.

I'd rather reserve judgment until I see what his policies are....

Freeman Hunt said...

I didn't know anyone openly admitted to loving Stallone.

I love Stallone.

Sloanasaurus said...

The riot, strike, and mass demonstration are going to become daily events in France for the next few years as Sarkozy attempts to reform their economy. Hopefully he will have the staying power to see it through.

vet66 said...

First we had westerns, then spaghetti westerns. Now we have quiche westerns!

The perfect "menage a trois" featuring a brawny, well dressed cowboy, not afraid to cry. Sounds like 'Brokeback Mons' to me!

Ron said...

Do not attempt to understand them; they remain incomprehensable. Merely move them forward, and apply the brand.
-- Les Rawhide

Hoosier Daddy said...

Hopefully he will have the staying power to see it through.

I would not bet the farm on that. He didn't win by that big of a majority where he'll have the masses supporting an end to the 35 hour work week. The thing of it is, despite grumblings, most French who have jobs live comfortably and those that don't have one, are far from destitute.

Its one thing to want a better economy and another when you have to pay for that with reduced benefits. If suddenly you find yourself working 60 hour work weeks and your vacation time is slashed say, by 50% and you can be (shudder) fired, then you'll see how far those reforms go.

Heck Chirac tried it last year and they rioted. I don't expect it to be different under Sarko. From what I can tell, he'll get more support for cracking down on the rioting 'youths' and curtailing immigration than any economic reforms.

Cyrus Pinkerton said...


I'm looking forward to the future Rocky sequel where he leaves the nursing home to fight for the heavyweight championship of the world. I think the working title of that one is Flopperchops Balboa, but it may change before it has a theatrical release.

Fen said...

Well, he says France's priority will be leading the fight against Global Warming.

Not like there's a radical theocracy trying to impose its will on the world, rollback the gains of the enlightenment, and murder all non-believers.

Carbon offsets. France has our back.

Richard Dolan said...

Bart Hall: Nice post. It rings true.

As for Sarko, the conventional wisdom, as displayed by the coverage in the NYTimes, is that he'll be checked by the unions and street demonstrations to come, and like Chirac, will end up having had no great impact on France. Perhaps that view will turn out to be accurate. But it was probably also the conventional wisdom in May 1979, when Mrs. Thatcher took over. Like her, Sarko has a very clear view of what he wants to accomplish, and why he thinks his proposed changes are essential in the French national interest. In 1979, the British unions were militant, too, but met their match in the Iron Lady. Granted, the parliamentary system gave her a freer hand and she accomplished only a part of what she set out to do. But just as Thatcherism has defined British politics since 1979, Sarko seems determined to leave a deep mark on France; over the last few months he has been at pains to spell out the details of how he intends to do that. When he said in his victory speech that France has voted for change, he certainly sounded like a leader who intends to shake up a status quo that no longer works, and is willing to do what it takes to deliver. This is one instance where I think the conventional wisdom will be proved wrong.

Bart Hall's comments about Sarko's Hungarian background suggest that Sarko, like Mrs. Thatcher, is unlikely to take "non" for an answer.

Wade Garrett said...

Bill - I actually think that's his best movie.

However, Cobra squandered all of the goodwill he had earned over the previous decade. What an awful movie.

Bill said...

Fen: Well, he says France's priority will be leading the fight against Global Warming.

Indeed, we could learn a lot from France's success in reducing its carbon intensity.

"We do not have oil, we do not have gas, we do not have coal, but we had ideas."

Palladian said...

If he's so worried about global warming and carbon emissions, I hope he realizes that the main culprit is French cars, which spew far more emissions than any other type of car, at least since their invention of the external combustion engine...

Thorley Winston said...

The last film that made Mr. Sarkozy cry was Robert Altman’s “A Prairie Home Companion.”

In President Sarkozy’s defense, the tears were after he realized that the theater wouldn’t refund his money.

In all seriousness, I’ll have to admit that I don’t know that much about him other than that he seems to be in favor of moving France is a more free-market direction, wants closer ties to the United States, and he’s hated by but doesn’t take s*** from the deadbeat class.

Works for me.

Fen said...

"Its engineers made France the first country use electricity of nuclear origin as the dominant method of production (74.5% of French production in 2003)."

The enviros won't let that happen here. Cleaner diesel though, we're behind the curve on that.

reader_iam said...

A bit more sober, if brief, analysis of Sarkozy, which includes this:

Just as he brings some rationality in economic and social policies, Sarkozy is expected to bring maturity in foreign policy, and especially in relations with the United States. Unlike the Left, which is ideologically and reflexively anti-American, and unlike incumbent President Jacques Chirac, who feels that French influence invariably means opposition to Washington, Sarkozy promises to be pragmatic. That does not make him “pro-American” in the sense naive conservatives in the United States wish him to be, but pragmatic, polite, and predictable. On issues like the Middle East, including Iran, cooperation will be close; it will continue to be excellent on counterterrorism and difficult on trade or the accession of Turkey to the EU. Inside the EU the old Franco-German coalition is gone, but so is the relentless French hostility to London.

reader_iam said...

Pretty silly, the way Elaine Sciolino chose to write her article, though not surprising.

It's not just the naive conservatives, it appears.

Thorley Winston said...

That does not make him “pro-American” in the sense naive conservatives in the United States wish him to be, but pragmatic, polite, and predictable.

That’s pretty much what qualifies as “pro-American” these days. ;)

In all seriousness though, countries don’t have “friends” in the sense that human being do, they have “interests” and the job of each nation’s leaders is look out for what they see as being in their own nation’s best interest. Chirac thought that France’s interests were promoted by reflexively opposing the United States in public (while doing a lot of work with the United States behind the scenes that barely made a blip in the news). Sarkozy seems to be taking a more Blairish style approach where they differ with the United States on policies like AGW but keep things pragmatic and polite.

I think what a lot of conservatives are hoping for though is that if France goes in a more free-market direction, its people and the leaders that they elect will see their “interests” in that direction rather in the quasi-socialist model they’ve embraced today. That Sarkozy seems more willing to crack down on lawlessness and illegal immigration sends a signal that while he probably won’t be sending what few troops France has to aid us in Iraq anytime soon, he’ll continue cooperating with us in the areas where France has cooperated and we might be able to expand that sphere of cooperate further than we would with Royal or Chirac.

Ignacio said...

My exwife is from Marseille, and a couple years ago Sarkozy was on France2 TV debating Tariq Ramadan, the slick young(ish) Islamist. I thought at the time: I wish we had an American politician who could think and talk on his feet like this!

A great deal was made of Sarkozy supposedly calling the car-burning rioters "scum," which they may in fact be, but anyone French knows that's an unsubtle translation of "racaille." Try "riffraff," or "punks."

As for how Sarkozy will do, I am prepared to watch and learn.

Revenant said...

Chirac thought that France’s interests were promoted by reflexively opposing the United States in public (while doing a lot of work with the United States behind the scenes that barely made a blip in the news).

It would be more accurate to say that Chirac thought HIS interests were promoted by supporting Hussein. Most of the Iraqi-French corruption wasn't between Hussein and France per se, but between Hussein and Chirac's political and business associates. That is why France helped Hussein with his nuclear weapons program under Chirac, then turned around and helped Israel sabotage it once Chirac was no longer in power.

Synova said...

I don't know what conservatives naively hope but I suspect that a lot of people are outwardly cheering while inwardly taking a "wait and see" attitude.

Cheering is good. It's just not useful to be negative about everything just to prove that you're not naive.

In the end the actions of nations aren't based on popularity. Or they shouldn't be. It's nice he likes America but other than being a bit of a warm fuzzy, the *liking* is not particularly relevant.

Freeman Hunt said...

Flopperchops Balboa

At sixty Stallone is in better shape and has a better physique than most (almost all) actors in their twenties. Rocky Balboa was actually a pretty good movie too; more along the lines of the original Rocky than the sequels.

Cyrus Pinkerton said...

Freeman wrote:

Rocky Balboa was actually a pretty good movie too.

If you liked Rocky Balboa, you'll love the next sequel. After eating too much pasta at Adrian's, Rocky is in an automobile accident and loses both legs. (Don't worry, they'll be re-attached by the time Flopperchops Balboa is shot.) Confined to a wheelchair, Rocky yearns to return to the fight game, and decides to train Paulie to fight for the heavyweight championship of the world. His opponent? The brutal "Italian Assassin" (played by Roberto Benigni) who distracts his opponents with finger puppet shows before pulverizing them with undetectable lightning quick blows to the most vulnerable regions of his opponents' anatomy. What the Italian Assassin doesn't know is that Paulie was tragically castrated in a terrible accident when he was using the meat grinder to make sausages at Adrian's. Needless to say, the Italian Assassin is in for a surprise and will find himself in the match of his life.

Jacques Albert said...

I'm satisfied for now with the outcome of the French elections, but we'll have to see, as others have suggested above. For conservatives in France, it's true that the test is not in the elections, but in the streets, where the left always goes, backed by France's leftist "students", labour communists and youthful criminal racaille ("scum", or "trash", or "riff-raff"--vous pouvez en choisir un), as Sarkozy aptly calls them), when they lose elections and where they attempt to paralyse the country through general strikes and violent mass demonstrations if a duly elected government actually attempts to act on its public mandate. In France, as in the States, scratch a socialist and you'll find a communist or pro-communist. It's lamentable that the real right in France (about 20% of the population), represented by the Front National and the parties of Bruno Megret and Philippe de Villiers, have virtually no representation in the French parliament. Perhaps the Sarkozy government will finally consider forging some agreement with the hard right, but I doubt it. Of course there'd be riots (there always are), but perhaps Sarkozy'll give the rioters a whiff of grapeshot this time . . .