Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Sarko effectively sinking the PS?

Sarkozy's appointment of Bernard Koucher is striking for many reasons.

For one, it means Sarko may actually be seeking to forward traditionally FRENCH (not Gaullist) issues in foreign affairs: Koucher seems reasonably tolerant of the US, is actively involved in humanitarian prospects, and shares many of his boss's pro-EU opinions. This likely signals that Sarko is dead serious about rising above the partisan fray. Interesting. Sarko even went as far as to include seven women in the cabinet... Well done indeed.

As a subset of Koucher's appointment as FM, it's notable that Sarko would give that post to a member of the opposition -- foreign relations are traditionally the role of the President, while the PM controls more of the domestic agenda. In effect, Koucher position, by design, is kept on a short lease to the Elysee and therefore Sarko effectively retains a direct veto over anything Koucher might do that wouldn't be 100% kosher with the big boss.

Two, look what it's doing to the Socialists -- they've since ousted Koucher, and are practically conceding any hope of a majority in next month's elections to the Assemble Nationale. Ladies and gents, start your engines, because we may be in for an entertaining power struggle when the dust settles. The PS has one very important question it must answer: does it truly embrace the market economy? Where is its Tony Blair, great capitalist modernizer of Labour? Blair made Labour electable, and the PS is clearly not. It might not be too far of a stretch to see the PS fracture into a "Social Democratic" party and some harder lefties...

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Gingrich makes his appeal to the disenfranchised right

Newt Gingrich's appearance on Meet the Press was aimed at one audience: Hard core Republicans who view the Bush administration as both incompetent and traitorous to key Republican values. Gingrich talked tough on Iraq, used a plethora of references to Ronald Reagan (a sure sign you're talking to misty-eyed conservative ideologists), and had, well, pretty much all the answers.

Middle America probably loved it.

Two problems jumped out, however:

1. He was long on proposed solutions, but didn't account for any sort of political opposition. DeTocque will happily throw out 20 proposed changes to "Win in Iraq", but it's the EXECUTION of those things which seems to get everyone in trouble.

2. If he does decide to run for President (which will probably be determined by poll numbers based on appearances like this), he WILL fill a void amongst Republican candidates, but he WON'T get very far: when push comes to shove, he'll lose out when his opponents keep bringing up that nasty affair he had while leading the impeachment charge. He might talk the talk, but the evangelicals will have their say...

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

USS ALBERTO GONZALES takes on more water.

Former Deputy Attorney General James Comey's testimony today on the Hill was nothing short of jaw droppingly flabberghasting. Insane. The stuff Hollywood courtroom dramas are made of. We'll save the details, and just let you read them here.

Here are the salient points:

1. It's astounding that John Ashcroft comes out of the situation looking like a saint by respecting th Comey's authority in a situation where he had delegated power.

2. Alberto Gonzales gets yet another strike against him. If the man survives in this job, DeTocque has a horse he wants Alberto to sell you. No matter what else he has done behind closed doors at the DoJ, good or bad, the US attorneys' affair and this should be able to sink anyone, even if your best buddy is the most powerful man in the world.

3. Why is this story just hitting the papers now? It's over four years old. In examining the US attorneys' scandal, did someone tell someone that Comey had something else negative to say about all this?

4. Congrats to Comey, FBI Director Robert Mueller, et al. for having the decency to prepare their resignations on this and stand up for their beliefs.

5. Andy Card sure looks like a slime ball.

6. Bush, despite compromising in the end and allowing the eavesdropping authorization to be modified, actually deserves no credit for bending on this -- if a rash of high profile resignations hit the press three years ago, the political mess would have been far worse. He did what any politician would do.

7. DeTocque's $20 is on James Comey to be the next AG. It's the perfect face-saving situation in all this: Alberto, scarred multiple times, resigns, and Comey, with plenty of experience and now the darling of the Democrat-controlled Senate judiciary committee, sails through his confirmation hearing.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Bush's poodle?

Tony Blair announced that he would step down on 27 June and finally transfer power to, presumably, the rather anxious Gordon Brown, who has been jumping up and down like an eight year old needing the bathroom for about the last four years as Tony clings to power.

Much of the commentary (for an example, see here) makes reference to Blair being "Bush's poodle". But perhaps he's not, or at least, not out of the ordinary. Post WWII history has shown that, when on the world stage since the disaster of the Suez Crisis, British PM's have traditionally chosen to influence American foreign policy by using their position as a trusted ally to nuance the Superpower's action in the direction of Britain's national interest: Two of the most "special relationships" include Harold Macmillan leaning on JFK to get nuclear missile defense of the UK and Europe, and Margaret Thatcher's heavy influence on Ronald Reagan.

Using this historical precedent, if Blair had independently concluded that invading Iraq was also in the UK's national interest, then he had every reason to support the invasion in 2003. And, more importantly, his influence was heavily present through the entire process, right up to the last days before the invasion when he forced Bush to take his case for war back to the UN for a second resolution.

Let's not jump to conclusions because Blair chose to commit troops to Iraq -- he did so because he thought it was in the UK's national interest, used Britain's historically most successful foreign policy mechanism to achieve his aims, and steered Bush in the direction of multilateralism (even though it was a relatively futile effort).


Getting into musical recommendations, check out Wilco's new release Sky Blue Sky... Half way through the first listen, it's a different, more straightforward record, but still up to the high standards of "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot" and "A Ghost is Born."

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

French election rehash

Congrats to the 47% of the French populace who have proven DeTocque to be mostly wrong... While there were sporadic riots following Nicolas Sarkozy's triumph on Sunday, by-and-large, the masses have just eaten their cake and laid low. Since the election had a huge turnout, was fair, and not contested by Sego, the 47% probably just felt exhausted. Sego is actually lucky that the center-right fielded such a personally unlikeable candidate as Sarko, otherwise you could probably add about 2-3% to his total: far too many Sego voters were in the "anyone but Sarko" camp.

(an unflattering mock-up of Sego)

Where does this leave the French Socialist Party?

Frankly, it's in a tight spot, and has some serious contemplating to do in order to reemerge as a truly viable political force in France. While Segolene certainly had her draw-backs as a candidate, it was the image of France's future that the Socialists have to rework: the world is a global economy, and nothing will change that. Nothing. Multinational corporations will merge and manual labor jobs will be lost as the industrial sector continues to shift towards the developing world. So, instead of grasping to the hope that France fights to relatively low-paying jobs in protected "national champion" industries, the French Socialists simply must go the Clintonian-Blairite "Third Way" and be a modern Socialist party which espouses social justice and embraces globalization. For starters, they should encourage social justice by providing the mechanisms necessary for citizens to advance along with globalization, rather than fight against it.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

French election drawing to a close

DeTocque is back and in fine form after a lovely ten-day repose on the beaches of Central America.

But on to the French elections... We won't get into the nasty electoral politics at this juncture, as both Nicolas Sarkozy and Segolene Royale have turned it into a vote into a nasty character referendum (surprised? when was the last time anyone heard of a civil election with so much at stake?), but DeTocque will make one rather not-so-bold prediction if Sarko wins: there'll be protests, and tons of them, and for weeks on end.

While everyone and their dog knows that France is a nation of protesters, the protesting-prone portion of the population is over-represented in those who would traditionally vote for Sego -- the unions, the lower middle class, the students. If they don't get what they want, it's second nature to take to the streets.

Two aspects about this are of significance:

1. If a Sarko victoire causes demonstrations en masse, this should pose profound questions to French philosophers about whether the French psyche is really accepting of representative democracy. (Since a) a Sarko vicotory and b) demonstrations have not happened yet, DeTocque will only expound on this point should a) and b) actually come to pass).

2. How would Sarko react? His authoritarian style would default to heavy police presence and strong-armed strike-breaking mentality, but DeTocque guesses the new president would want to win over his new subjects and let them paralyze the country for a week or two. Only if the pagaille drags on would the batons come out.