WaPo columnist David Ignatius, who recently spent four years in Paris as the editor of the International Herald Tribune, writes that Jacques Chirac "richly deserves the scorn that will be shoveled his way" as result of France's rejection of the EU constitution.
"Whatever their class, age or political orientation," says Ignatius, "French people want to conserve what they've got. They want to maintain inflexible management and labor unions, six-week vacations, a 35-hour workweek—and also to be a growing, dynamic, entrepreneurial economy. Chirac never had the guts to tell the French they couldn't have it both ways. He never explained that rigid labor rules had led to a high unemployment rate, currently 10.2 percent."
According to Ignatius, "Chirac's real failure was his inability over two terms as president to level with the French people about the changes that are needed to protect the way of life they cherish. He played games with economic reform—tiptoeing up to the edge and then pulling back at any sign of public displeasure."
Ignatius concludes that, "The French people are right to worry about the future. With their current economic structure, they'll never make it."