Well, so much for that guy.
During his five years in Elysée Palace, Nicolas Sarkozy came up with one plan after another that had nothing to do with his election promises or with France’s most pressing problems. His economic reforms were amazingly consistent: they made every problem worse. He had one advisor who took care to ensure he never made sense on economics, and another who used to write fan notes about Jean-Marie Le Pen. He rigged a public appointment for his son and took a vacation on a billionaire’s yacht. When he was nominated as his party’s candidate five years ago he assured everyone, “I’ve changed.” This turned out to be optimistic.
Sarkozy is essentially a silly man and France is well rid of him. François Hollande, the new president-elect, is no providential talent. He’s loaded up the agenda for his first year in power with busy work that probably won’t help. (Perhaps lost in that pile of projects, but worth noting as a sign of the times, is Hollande’s plan to pull troops out of Afghanistan before the end of the year.) But his election is encouraging for two reasons. First, it’s possible he’ll manage the economy about as well as anyone in France ever does, as his Socialist predecessor François Mitterrand eventually learned to do. Second, it gets Sarkozy out of the way. If he’d hung on, his country would have been absurdist performance theatre for another five years and the Socialists would be guaranteed of victory in 2017. This way his party has a chance of finding a serious candidate for that next election. I nominate this guy. Meanwhile it’s still a pretty country.