Slate.fr nabs a post-victory interview with François Hollande

François Hollande

Fairly comprehensive stuff. A few highlights:

On France’s relationship with Germany:

L’existence d’un couple «Merkozy» a été critiquée en Europe. Quelle est votre position sur ce couple franco-allemand?

Autant je crois au moteur franco-allemand, autant je conteste l’idée d’un duopole. La construction européenne repose sur une relation France-Allemagne équilibrée et respectueuse. Les couples Schmidt-Giscard, Kohl-Mitterrand,  et même Chirac-Schröder ont prouvé que les différences politiques n’empêchaient pas le travail commun. Mais ces dirigeants veillaient à conjuguer la démarche intergouvernementale avec le processus communautaire, c’était la meilleure façon d’éviter que nos partenaires éprouvent le sentiment d’être écartés, ou pire encore soumis.

Cet équilibre a été modifié ces dernières années. Le rapport franco-allemand a été exclusif. Les autorités européennes ont été négligées et certains pays, notamment les plus fragiles, ont eu la désagréable impression d’être en face d’un directoire.

On Barack Obama, and speaking English (and he couldn’t resist a jab at Sarkozy):

Justement, vous allez rencontrer Barack Obama pour la première fois au G8 de Camp David les 18 mai et 19 mai. Une première question, qui pourra vous sembler anecdotique: Mister Hollande, do you speak English?

Yes I speak English, more fluently than the former President. But a French president has to speak French!

Au-delà de la plaisanterie, est-ce que vous pensez que c’est important que le chef d’Etat français parle la langue commune de la diplomatie internationale?

Il a besoin de la comprendre et de pouvoir avoir des échanges directs avec ses interlocuteurs. Mais je suis attaché à la langue française et à la francophonie.

Lorsque je participais à des sommets de chefs de partis en Europe, il a pu m’être désagréable d’entendre des amis roumains, polonais, portugais, italiens parfois, parler anglais, mais j’admets que sur le plan informel, les contacts puissent s’établir dans cette langue. Je défendrai néanmoins partout l’usage du français.

On a nuclear Iran:

Quelle est votre position sur la crise liée au programme nucléaire iranien?

Je n’ai pas critiqué la position ferme de Nicolas Sarkozy par rapport aux risques de prolifération nucléaire. Je le confirmerai avec la même force et la même volonté. Et je n’admettrai pas que l’Iran, qui a parfaitement le droit d’accéder au nucléaire civil, puisse utiliser cette technologie à des fins militaires.

Sur ce sujet, l’administration Obama semble plus souple, plus encline à la négociation, que le gouvernement français…

Les Iraniens doivent apporter toutes les informations qui leur sont demandées et en terminer avec les faux-semblants. Les sanctions doivent être renforcées autant qu’il sera nécessaire. Mais je crois encore possible la négociation pour atteindre le but recherché.

All in all, Hollande’s triumph may signal a rocky future for Europe, especially in French-German relations but even extending beyond that to a more general backlash to the politics of austerity. As some have noted, Hollande’s victory may in fact suit the Obama administration just fine, at least on economic issues. If his election — and the rising hopes of leftists around Europe — can somehow hold back the tide of plummeting stocks and rising bond yields until at least November 6th, he may prove very useful to Obama’s reelection chances. Furthermore, his economic philosophy is, in many ways, closer to that embraced by the United States than Sarkozy’s pro-austerity administration has been. Foreign policy, however, may be a slightly different story.

So, about yesterday’s French presidential election

Paul Krugman:

What is true is that Mr. Hollande’s victory means the end of “Merkozy,” the Franco-German axis that has enforced the austerity regime of the past two years. This would be a “dangerous” development if that strategy were working, or even had a reasonable chance of working. But it isn’t and doesn’t; it’s time to move on. Europe’s voters, it turns out, are wiser than the Continent’s best and brightest.

What’s wrong with the prescription of spending cuts as the remedy for Europe’s ills? One answer is that the confidence fairy doesn’t exist — that is, claims that slashing government spending would somehow encourage consumers and businesses to spend more have been overwhelmingly refuted by the experience of the past two years. So spending cuts in a depressed economy just make the depression deeper.

Rosecrans Baldwin:

France and America have a long history of mutual loathing and longing. Americans still dream of Paris; Parisians still dream of the America they find in the movies of David Lynch. It will take time for both countries to adjust to a new leader, a new image. For our part, we may even learn what a real Socialist is.

But the French will have it worse. They may not miss Nicolas Sarkozy now; they may never pine for him to return. They will, however, feel his absence. The temperature will drop. When an object we love to hate is removed, then love is lost, too.

The New York Times takes a broader look at the future of austerity:

In broad terms, the French vote unsettled center-right governments across Europe, while their center-left adversaries felt emboldened, hoping that the triumph of one socialist leader presaged a wider resurgence.

But the real nub of the ideological and fiscal contest lay in the continent’s traditional driving axis between Berlin and Paris, with Mr. Hollande promising to rewrite the austerity-driven pact struck between Mr. Sarkozy and Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, whose own electoral fortunes are also uncertain.

And, on the French right, they are already complaining about the presence of foreign flags at François Hollande’s Bastille victory party:

Les scènes de liesse qui ont accompagné l’éléction de François Hollande ne sont pas du goût de certaines personnalités de droite. Au-delà de la défaite du candidat Sarkozy, certains membres de l’ancien gouvernement, mais aussi du Front national, ont dénoncé, lundi 7 mai, la présence de “drapeaux rouges et étrangers”lors du rassemblement pour célébrer la victoire du socialiste, la veille, place de la Bastille à Paris.

Sur France info, l’actuel vice-président du FN, qui fut le directeur de campagne deMarine Le Pen, Louis Aliot, s’est déclaré “surpris” par la présence “d’autant de drapeaux étrangers pour saluer la victoire de M. Hollande”. Et de poursuivre : “Ce sont les mêmes drapeaux étrangers que l’on a vus saluer la victoire de M. Sarkozy et [celle] de Jacques Chirac, en 2002.”

I was there at Bastille starting at 7:15 PM or so all the way until Hollande’s speech ended around 1 AM, and there were a lot of foreign flags. Granted, it doesn’t take much to rile the Front National, but it was an interesting sight nonetheless. It was an unforgettable experience, even though I thought I was going to get trampled in the crowd at several different points.

The joy of Rupert Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal

Yesterday’s online Wall Street Journal edition included a column by Daniel Henninger, its deputy editor of editorials. The article, titled “Memo to the Youth Vote,” begins by asking: “Why would anyone under the age of 25 vote for Barack Obama in November?”

This seems an unlikely question to ask. A Harvard poll released about a week ago revealed that Obama leads Romney among the young by 17%. So perhaps the more appropriate question would be, “Why would anyone under the age of 25 vote for Mitt Romney in November?” But even leaving aside this curious opening line, Henninger later uses economist Robert Lucas to critique Obama’s economic policies:

He then looked at the levels of U.S. social-welfare commitments, including the new Obama health-care entitlement, and ended with a simple observation: “Is it possible that by imitating European policies on labor markets, welfare and taxes, the U.S. has chosen a new, lower GDP trend? If so, it may be that the weak recovery we have had so far is all the recovery we will get.”

In what alternate universe has Obama imitated European policies on…any of these things? European tax systems are different, welfare is extremely different, and in general the labor markets are more rigid on the Old Continent than they are in the U.S. Going a step further, Obama’s stimulus package is proof positive that he differed strongly from his European counterparts, who have united behind the austerity-advocating trifecta of David Cameron, Angela Merkel, and Nicolas Sarkozy.

But Henninger doesn’t stop there. He then proceeds to discuss the disarray of European universities, never bothering to devote a single sentence to how this relates to the U.S., which has most of the best universities in the world. He finally closes by suggesting that, given high unemployment levels, young Americans may end up needing ObamaCare after all. Indeed they might, Henninger. That’s kinda the point of universal coverage.

Today’s random assortment

The annual White House Correspondents’ Dinner took place last night, and President Obama was actually (in my opinion) a bigger hit than the actual comedian, Jimmy Kimmel, who seemed rushed and nervous the entire time. His timing was never quite there, but he had some good moments anyway.

And lastly, if you’re looking for the principal difference between European- and American-style politics, look no further than this. How many American presidential speeches have you ever seen where they place him in front of random window blinds? Never underestimate the theatrical element powering every modern American president’s public persona.