Update: the debate
1:50 AM: Marine Le Pen succeeded in making me think that Emmanuel Macron won’t be such a bad president after all. It was just an illusion, but she can be given credit for it.
Her only strong moment was when she confronted Macron on the question of fundamentalist Islam. It is his weak point and she supported her argument with strong specifics. However, he was able to slip out of the trap by confronting her record of systematically voting against protective measures taken by the French or EU government, for example the PNR and broad wiretapping powers for the police. “They’re all junk,” she retorted.
For the rest, her performance was a disgraceful barrage of insults, snickering, cackling, interrupting, sputtering, and endless wild shots that missed their target.
Instead of revealing weak points in Emmanuel Macron’s vision or program, she wasted her ammunition on sloppy rants. Even when she was right, she was wrong.
By the time she finished accusing her rival of being an heir to François Hollande, a creature of the socialists, a heartless ally of globalized big finance, responsible for the capitalist free for all that divides and conquers, crushes the poor peasants and workers, crawling on his belly to the orders of Angela Merkel and the drug companies… all of this and more in one rambling rant, she made no points that could stick.
And there she was again with Whirlpool. If she were president they wouldn’t close the factory. Because she’d slap their imports with a 35% tax.
To reduce the deficit of the health care system, she would force pharmaceutical companies to lower their prices.
Aha, replied Emmanuel Macron, I have bad news for you. 90% of the drugs consumed in France are manufactured in other countries. Your import tax will increase the cost. And the same goes for your cell phone…
Who won? In a post debate poll, 63% judged Emmanuel Macron most convincing as against 34% for Marine Le Pen.
Despite the fact that many of 20 million viewers that followed what was more like a punching match than a debate were deeply disappointed at the entire spectacle, I think it is safe to predict that it clinched Emmanuel Macron’s lead and in the long run doomed Marine Le Pen’s political prospects.
|Final results of the first round vote on April 23rd
|Number of votes
|Marine Le Pen
|1,695,000 (that might have carried Fillon to the 2nd round
|Asselineau, Arthaud, Cheminade
|Each under 1%.
Four radically different candidates came in so close to each other that the order is almost arbitrary. But the consequences are enormous.
In contrast with the 1st round, polls were scarce and barely mentioned until Macron’s lead over Le Pen slipped by five points. On the eve of the May 3rd debate it stood at 59%/41%. And nothing is certain. Nothing is stable. The French political scene is like the polar ice cap, with big chunks breaking away and floating on icy seas and huge masses looming on the horizon. No one is in control. If François Hollande and his cronies thought they could count on a “Republican Front” to carry their candidate to victory, they miscalculated. The media that was so cozy with the En Marche wunderkind on the 1st round has turned snippy. And, no matter how many old devils surface, they seem to think Marine Le Pen has managed to take the onus off of her party. More or less.
Many honest citizens will abstain or vote blank. Marine Le Pen is trying to seduce the 1st round voters of the lider maximo Mélenchon, who won’t take a stand one way or the other. Reportedly, one third are ready to go her way. In his concession speech, François Fillon said he would vote Macron. Hard to swallow for him as for his supporters, but consistent with the view that the Front National is not a legitimate political party. Many high profile members of the LR followed suit; others announced they would not vote for either candidate. A few have already edged into Macron’s camp since Fillon was weakened by scandal. François Baroin, once slated to be Fillon’s PM, is now running the LR legislative campaign. If the party maintains its majority, Baroin would accept the post of prime minister in an En Marche-LR cohabitation government. No one knows if the Assembly is going to be a patchwork, a tossed salad, or a sour soup.
And then there’s holier than thou Nicolas Dupont-Aignan (known as NDA), a man of such high principles that he broke away from the conservative party (today’s LR) and started his own movement to defend national sovereignty, dignity, and integrity. Fishing in the same voter pool as François Fillon, NDA reveled in his rival’s mishaps. The gift of expensive suits? NDA, mayor of Yerres, raises his eyebrows: “I gave back all the gifts I received.” You could just see the right honorable mayor depositing in the municipal treasure chest the paperweight offered by a local printing company, the tool kit donated by a hardware store, and other such precious gifts. Does he employ his wife as parliamentary assistant? “Yes,” he exclaims, “and she really works!!!”
On the 1st round election night, defeated candidates and prominent members of their parties announced one after the other their reluctant or enthusiastic support for Emmanuel Macron. Clean as a whistle NDA, who scored under the 5% minimum that entitles a candidate to reimbursement of an important share of his campaign expenses, coyly promised to state his position the next day. It dragged on until the Friday presentation of the dream team: Marine President, Dupont-Aignan Prime Minister. The vice president of NDA’s party (Debout la France / Stand tall, France), horrified by this unholy alliance, immediately resigned. Citizens of Yerres are disgusted. But most commentators seem to think Marine has finally achieved her goal of making a real alliance with a real political party. What a catch!
What a catch? She’s fishing for giant tuna and she hooks a sardine, big deal! Since MLP and NDA joined forces, her platform has cracked and fizzled. Frexit is kicked down the road, the euro won’t be ditched, the linchpin of a rickety economic project is removed, leaving only barebones French-first promises, most of which are unconstitutional or impossible without leaving the EU and the eurozone. Huge gaps are plastered over with boasting. Marine will give the EU a piece of the glorious French people’s mind, she’ll negotiate from strength, she’ll wrest control of borders, protect our economy from unfair competition, ridiculous regulations, lousy trade agreements, and dumping of products and workers. How about the euro, blamed for our import-export ills? It will be retained, after all. Temporarily. But only for international exchanges. The French will have their cherished franc for domestic exchanges. I watched Marine’s niece, the young MP Marion Maréchal Le Pen, explain the double-decker currency to a hawk-eyed BFM TV economic expert … who didn’t even blink!
One thing is clear: immediately upon taking office MLP/NDA will set about moralizing political life. Marine’s supporters are not bothered by the EU Parliament’s demand for reimbursement of 5 million euros in funds misused by FN eurodeputies. It doesn’t bother the raised eyebrows of Dupont-Aignan either. No snooper journalist has zoomed in on a Daddy Warbucks that might have given Marine a free outfit or a buy-all-you-want card at the French equivalent of Macy’s basement. Then there are the varied accusations of financial irregularities in FN operations here in France. Jean-François Jalckh, who is involved in those scandals, served briefly as interim party chief while Marine is making her way to the presidency, stepped down after just a few days in office, embarrassed by some boiler plate negationism captured in a 2005 interview for Le Temps des saviors.
Jalckh denies he said Zyklon B could not be used for wide scale massacres; the journalist says she has the recording; Marine says she wants nothing to do with that kind of talk that led her to break with her father. Jean-Marie Le Pen blubbered that the slain policeman Xavier Jugelé was honored as a homosexual (Jugelé was an LGBT activist within the police force) not as a man in blue.
One commentator suggested that Marine is on her way to achieving her dream of reorganizing the Right around her axis. In other words, bagging NDA with his self-righteous smirk is enough to undo the intricate conservative movement established after France was liberated from the Nazis and maintained in relative good health ever since. They should all disappear into the hole dug to bury François Fillon?
Highlights of the first week of campaigning: Commemorations, delocalizations, exploitation
The 2nd round campaign has been frantic and incoherent. To cast light on the dark origins of the Front National, Emmanuel Macron did a round of commemorations of “horrors that must never be repeated”: the Armenian Genocide, the Nazi atrocity at Oradour sur Glane, the Deportation, the Shoah, and the 1995 drowning of Brahim Bouarram pushed into the Seine by skinheads during a Front National Mayday parade. Marine Le Pen decried her rival’s exploitation of the dead.
And what about contemporary atrocities? To her credit, Marine Le Pen did mention the murder of Sarah Halimi, but neither candidate has made an issue of the contemporary form of anti-Jewish persecution. MP Meyer Habib is following the case, in close contact with the victim’s brother William Attal and with the interior minister. At Habib’s suggestion the family has retained Maître Gilles William Goldnadel, lawyer, columnist, and president of the France-Israel association. Further Details of the vicious jihad murder have emerged: Sarah Halimi was subject to “torture and barbaric supplications” before being pushed out the window by Kada Traoré. Inexplicably, the police, called to the address because Traoré was on the rampage, waited downstairs until commando reinforcements arrived. Too late.
Close to a thousand people participated in the march in tribute to Sarah Halimi. They had not yet reached her building when some of the organizers stopped the march and asked them to leave their flowers. The participants refused. When they reached the site, they saw (visibly Muslim) neighbors on their balconies cursing and throwing projectiles at them. A bit further, local “youths” threatened them. “We know what to do with you, Jews. We have kalachs.” An eyewitness tells me that mature family men joined the younger Jews and chased the aggressors away.
Courageous political leaders, including Manuel Valls and François Fillon, have identified antizionism as the modern form of antisemitism. Times of Israel unearthed a basket of comments by Marine’s running mate Dupont-Aignan: in 2014 he defended a French parliamentary motion for unilateral recognition of the Palestinian state, condemned Israel’s “disproportionate” reactions and “unacceptable” collateral damage to civilians during the Protective Edge operation, called the land operation an “invasion,” slammed France’s failure to “rein in” Israel. He described the conflict as a duel between two hawkish camps led respectively by Netanyahu and Hamas. Nothing better can be expected of Emmanuel Macron on this score.
Frantic campaign maneuvers
Traditionally, French presidential candidates gallop over to the nearest labor dispute and promise that such things will never happen once they are elected. This time it’s the closure of a Whirlpool plant in Amiens that is relocating to Poland, and the workers are vigorously protesting against the disgraceful delocalization. They don’t know or don’t care to know that Whirlpool (we say whirl as in world, the French say it as in weird) is an American company started as a small family business in 1885 and now operating in 26 countries. The story is edifying. After his first venture failed, Lou Upton was able to salvage one item. He chose the patent on a hand washer and wringer that he thought could be electrified. It worked. But all the machines in the first shipment broke down because of one defective part. The company solved the problem, replaced all the machines, and established its good reputation.
When Marine Le Pen heard that Emmanuel Macron was meeting with labor and management in an office at the Amiens site, she dropped everything and parachuted herself into the crowd of angry workers, bringing them croissants, hugs & kisses, and selfie-ops. After she left, Macron came out of the office and mingled, but the reception was cool. Faced with insinuations of buttering up the workers with croissants, FN-affiliated MP Gilbert Collard sputtered, “We’re not whores, the workers aren’t whores…it’s the bankers that are whores.”
This is one of Marine’s major lines of attack against Macron: he is an instrument of the evil financial oligarchy, once a banker always a friend of the bankers. He’s a tool of the financial monster that sucks the blood of the hardworking people, feeds the voracious multinationals that crush the working man, destroy our countryside, ruins our farmers and small businessmen, inundates us with hostile immigrants.
Emmanuel Macron counter-attacked with a foray into Sarcelles, one of those banlieues where, he proudly declared, Marine would not be welcome. He was surrounded by cheering diversity locals. slim Macron in his elegant suit kicked around a soccer ball to squeals of delight, made a fake goal with the help of an enthusiastic supporter, squinted as he was hugged by a woman in hijab. The socialist mayor of Sarcelles, François Pupponi, looked on with a smile. At a conference organized by the UPJF [Union des patrons et professionnels juifs de France] in March, Pupponi said the Salafists are messing up Sarcelles. Once known as Little Jerusalem, Sarcelles was home to a vibrant population of Jewish refugees from the Maghreb. In the summer of 2014 rioters wreaked havoc, burned down a kosher grocery, and attacked a synagogue.
The traditional worker’s May Day parade was billed this year as anti-Le Pen but the bulk of the message was “No to the plague and cholera” and the outrage was concentrated on Emmanuel Macron the banker. As the usual marching crowd moved slowly down the boulevard from Place de la République heading to Bastille and Place de la Nation, buoyed by giant balloons bobbing in the wind and ear-blasting sound trucks, hundreds of Black Blocs and associated party crashers were already fighting the police a few hundred meters past the Bastille. Pictures of a riot policeman engulfed in flames have gone around the world tour, making a mockery of the state of emergency, and reminding us that above and beyond this tumbledown presidential campaign, France has to deal with the full range of violent subversive forces.
Anarchists roam the city, smashing whatever pops up on their disapproval list: Real estate agencies, trendy clothing stores and always and repeatedly, banks. Money is the root of all evil, except of course if they need some for themselves. They deface all the election posters displayed on age-old municipal hoardings in front of polling places. Sometimes they team up with the lycéens, barricade the entry to schools, set fire to trash cans here, motorcycles there. Destroy.
27 April: Historian of past and present, Georges Bensoussan presented his latest release, Une France Soumise [French submission], to a receptive audience at the Cercle Bernard Lazare, a Jewish community center in the Marais. Readers of Troubled Dawn of the 21st Century will find an account of an assault on the CBL by pro-Palestinians marching for peace in 2003. Editorial director of the groundbreaking Territoires perdus de la République, Bensoussan again worked with a team of investigators gathering testimony from private citizens, public servants, medical personnel and other professionals exposed to the thrust of Islamic domination. Ninety percent of the people interviewed asked to remain anonymous, either out of fear of reprisals from aggressors or disapproval from their superiors. Bensoussan is not an alarmist, he is not inspired by any personal animosity, he could have refrained from examining these distressful truths, the better to promote his distinguished career. Instead, historian of the Shoah, Jewish refugee from the Maghreb, he has taken it upon himself to look the facts in the face. If the ills cannot be recognized, he says, they cannot be cured. Listening to anecdotes, statistics, overall impressions and analyses, it felt like being dipped into the “reservoir of hatred” that the author warns can explode at the slightest spark. He takes care to add that despite her rhetoric, Marine Le Pen is not the answer. The Front National is anti-democratic, a danger to the nation.
According to Aymeric Chauprade, Le Pen’s former foreign policy advisor, Marine Le Pen is under the influence of the obsessively antisemitic Frédéric Chatillon who handles PR and is a big cog in the party’s financial machine, currently under investigation. Chatillon’s political origins in the neo-Nazi GUD movement and his current links to Bashar al Assad, Hezbollah, Alain Soral, Dieudonné, and others of the same ilk remind us of other examples of collusion between these seemingly disparate forces.
Does this reassure us about the will and the way that Emmanuel Macron will protect our cherished freedom and lead a democratic defense of our national sovereignty and international civilization, domestically and within the European Union that he wants to strengthen and federate? Will he protect the living with as much devotion as he has shown to the memory of the dead, victims of the same persecution from a 20th century version of totalitarian conquest? Determined to combat Daesh…as long as it is done under UN auspices, committed to a solution of the Mideast conflict…in conformity with international law, Emmanuel Macron advocates peace and harmony.
Questioned about the May Day violence, Macron promised stiff penalties for anyone who attacks the police, and fire-resistant uniforms for law enforcement.
Far from reassuring on this count as on other major issues, the probable future president will face the skepticism of a majority of the electorate, the reluctant support of those who choose him as a lesser evil, the explosive anger of disappointed followers of Mélenchon and Le Pen, and the wrath of the Front Social, a hard-nosed fringe of the labor movement and assorted autonomists acting in concert with the violent Destroy fringe and determined to settle scores in the street, not in the voting booth. On the site of the Publicis branch of the CGT (Communist trade union) the photo of the riot policeman engulfed in flames is labeled “poulet rôti” [roast chicken = roast cop].
Is something more ominous at work beneath the surface of this dismal presidential campaign? Is the choice between the Front National meteor with its Petainist tail and the En Marche bombshell innocently harboring an Islamist powder keg a sign of acquiescence to the new wave of genocide sweeping our world? The Front National is, they say, banalisé. Not a shameful heir to the disgrace of the 20th century, just an ordinary political party. And an ordinary extermination, an ordinary past. Time to forget and move on. En Marche, move on, on the go, forward with all the youthful energy of progressives, new faces…facing new forms of subversion armed with victim status and appealing to universal values…the better to eat you with, my dears.