As usual, the MSM (or “drive-by” media) is completely missing a huge political story that will probably shape our lives for a generation: The emergence of French President Nicolas Sarkozy as a conservative (in USA terms) revolutionary in Western Europe. For the first time in my lifetime, a French President is embracing American-inspired goals, dreams and freedoms long scoffed at by the socialist/neo-fascist French leaders of the past 40 years.
I am thrilled to see that the Roger Cohen at the New York Times (now totally free online!) has highlighted the Sarkozy Revolution in his column today, The French Revolution. (Note this is an opinion column, not news coverage that the Times should be doing on Sarko.)
The French Revolution of 2007 has not seen heads roll but has involved the destruction of 10 taboos as President Nicolas Sarkozy assumes the role of Europe’s most dynamic leader.
Enthusiasm for the United States was unacceptable for a French political leader because it was always interpreted as an embrace of “Wild West” capitalism, “Anglo-Saxon” hegemony and vulgarity. De rigueur attitudes held sway: patronizing contempt in Paris met macho derision in Washington. Communication suffered. Sarko’s New Hampshire vacation, enthused American dreaming, iPod-accompanied jogging and in-your-face style cleared the air.
To run France, you had to be cultured. Mitterrand’s bookish references and Delphic utterances (“A president must know how to be bored”) positioned him as too clever to contest. Chirac had a recherché passion for Japan. Culture — like cows but on a different level — connected the president to the Gallic eternal. Sarko, an American movie buff, is more at home with Johnny Hallyday than Jean-Paul Sartre.
Strong French ties and traditions in the Middle East dictated coolness toward Israel. Chirac let slip that an Iranian nuclear bomb might be acceptable, before saying he’d misspoken. Now Sarkozy, forthright in his support of Israel, declares that “an Iranian bomb or the bombing of Iran” may be the terrible choice looming; his foreign minister says the world should “prepare for the worst” in Iran, meaning war. Iran is no Arab country, but these utterances betray a changed politique Arabe.
Moscow was France’s offsetting power to the United States. For many cold-war years, the French left struggled to decide what was worse: Soviet totalitarianism or American imperialism. Some of the French right was undecided, too. Later, Chirac suggested “neo-liberalism” — unfettered market forces — was as much a danger in the 21st century as totalitarianism in the 20th. Weak-kneed moral equivalency often placed Paris in a halfway house between Washington and Moscow. Sarkozy is clear: American democracy beats Russian authoritarianism, just as U.S. freedom beat Soviet enslavement.
The bulk of this taboo-smashing is positive because it has stripped away paralyzing French hypocrisy, opened the way for unfettered French-American discussion and cleared a possible path to tackling chronic high unemployment.
Should Sarkozy’s success in knocking down French taboos continue, he may be the most important leader to emerge in World War III. If al-Qaeda’s success is as much propaganda and influencing Western politics as it is car bombs, I believe the Islamic terror movement suffered a serious blow with the election of Sarko. The French people had their choice between Ronald Reagan and Hillary Clinton in their last election….. they chose wisely, for once.
Could it be we have a French Margaret Thatcher in the making? I hope so.