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A Conversation in Paris

As the Socialists take over.

Jul 2, 2012, Vol. 17, No. 40 • By ROGER KAPLAN
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Well, Valérie Trierweiler—she kept her husband’s name when she threw him out, a sordid story of relations turned sour with her own family, a matter of money I believe—first lady of France since her François’s great victory (by more than a million votes) over the vulgarian Sarkozy—and I speak to you as a man of the right, monsieur—she did what women did in the days of Louis XIV: She attacked her rival! Came right out and slapped her, in the modern way, of course. She sent a tweet saying what a pity this woman might win in La Rochelle—this Ségolène Royal, endorsed by the Socialist party high command and Hollande himself—while her opponent, a good man, deserved to win.

How did François take it? Well, in what he passed off as a casual remark, he said it would be so nice to have Ségolène as president of the assembly; it would bring back memories of their youth, when Mitterrand was king, I mean president, and all the world was theirs to reinvent. Now it scarcely matters, for Ségolène is history. She lost and retired to Poitou.

And in our republic, of course, there is no first lady or first girlfriend. In fact, in the thousand years of the French monarchy, no woman held formal power. Yet our new president’s mistress goes beyond what Madame de Montespan ever would have dared! Alas, poor France! For this we elect an Assembly committed to gender equality, multiculturalism, fraternity, solidarity, socialism? 

Still, to be fair, give them a chance. Valérie has her taxpayer-provided office in the Elysée Palace, with her taxpayer-paid research staff, and she can go right on being a journalist, and maybe we will not hear from her for a while, and the president can concentrate on the euro and Greece. 

Well, the Socialists will do what they can, if the Germans let them. In a way, it is a good thing the right lost, monsieur, because frankly, the right, in its present state, could use some time in the tank. Mind you, they will regret being so hard on Sarkozy. He may have been an impulsive neurotic who wore platform shoes to try to keep up with his wife (and everyone else), but he understood this (and I say it as a Frenchman): The Germans have a point. If they pay for all those other countries, what do you think will happen? Stimulus? Growth? You will kiss growth goodbye forever, because the Germans will wreck their own locomotive, the only one that has a shot at pulling us out of this mess. 

And President Hollande knows it. Of course, he could not say so out loud during the campaign, because he would have been attacked on his left by that Trotskyist goon Jean-Luc Melenchon, with his Communist troops. True, they traded insults anyway. The Socialists called Mélenchon a rich boy playing red, while he called Hollande a stooge to the banks. Mélenchon got slaughtered, along with Marine Le Pen of the far right. Hollande and his boys pulled out all the stops to block her, but her National Front won’t go away. She will be watching the president’s every move and screaming that France is going to the dogs—and to the Arabs and the Africans who keep pouring in. But that’s another story.

No, Hollande is a shrewd fox. He said he was normal compared with that wild man we had, and look at how he lives and plays his cards. He said he would find the money to pay for more teachers and free hospitals and no doubt take care of our foreign affairs. Not that foreign policy came up during the campaign—except the Greeks and the Germans, of course—too embarrassing, and anyway no one talks about foreign policy in France except the president. It is his domain. Untouchable. Like his arrangements with les femmes.

Roger Kaplan is a frequent contributor.

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