Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Simple direct talk

Since last Sunday's results of the first round of the French legislative elections, which were unfavorable for everybody except the supporters of Nicolas Sarkozy, the Socialist Party has been in a state of disharmony. Somebody said it seems to have two chiefs, with different strategies: on the one hand, the former presidential candidate Ségolène Royal; on the other, François Hollande, the party's chief secretary.

This double-headed state of affairs is all the more intriguing in that Ségolène Royal and François Hollande, in everyday life, form a couple, with a family of four. [Their union was officialized by a recently-created French contract known as a PACS: literally, a civil pact of solidarity. This is the same legal device that enables same-sex couples to officialize their union.]

Yesterday, Ségolène Royal proudly told everybody that she had left a phone message with the chief of the centrists, François Bayrou. The election results for Bayrou's supporters were even worse than those of the socialists. Since all the centrist candidates except Bayrou were knocked out in the first round, the party leader could now encourage centrist voters to support the socialists... which was, of course, the raison d'être of Ségolène's phone message.

Today, Bayrou said he isn't going to reply to Ségolène's message, because he doesn't wish to side with anybody, neither the socialists nor the Sarkozists. Meanwhile, several leading socialists—including François Hollande—have publicly reprimanded Ségolène because of yesterday's phone message to an "outsider".

The grand lady's reaction: "It would be nice, from time to time, if politics could be as simple a thing as making a phone call." Ségolène should know by now that politics has never been as easy as that. When she gets home this evening, I wouldn't be surprised if her companion were to yell at her for having made a remark that sounds as if it might have come out of the mouth of George W Bush.

In fact, the spirit of Ségolène's sense of simplicity and direct talk reminds me of Ronald Reagan's famous words to Gorbachev on 12 June 1987, exactly twenty years ago: "General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization: Come here to this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!"

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