Saturday, January 10, 2009

La Haine, pt. 2

...President Nicolas Sarkozy debated Mathieu Kassovitz in 2005 on the riots that swept suburban Paris, when Sarkozy was Minister of the Interior. Sarkozy retains his notoriety for the blunt and unsympathetic way he described the rioters: he used the term "la racaille," which means scum. You can see "Sarko=Fachot" (Sarkozy equals fascist) graffiti all over Paris.

He angers the left mostly for an apparent anti-humanism in the face of suburban welfare slums, which is the French incarnation of the world's most pressing social crisis. Mathieu Kassovitz and Sarkozy have a robust exchange on this subject on the Criterion Collection's website for La Haine (translated from Kassovitz's blog)

As president of France, he has certainly earned a reputation for a heavy hand. He called a press conference on a beach to tantalize the world with his beautiful new wife's body. Apropos the global financial crisis, the former Minister of Finance, a putative friend to the free market, said "le laissez-faire, c'est fini."

Sarkozy also drastically and controversially redefined the role of EU president during his stint at the end of 2008. The heads of state of member nations rotate the still largely undefined role of president. When Sarko's turn came up he began to dictate policy directly rather than casting around for a consensus view.

All this identifies Sarkozy as a tough and somewhat nationalistic leader, in the grand tradition of tough and somewhat nationalistic French leaders. Like Bush, he entered the presidency as a scrappy conservative outsider, and also like Bush, it is hard to imagine a career more entrenched in the political elite.