Checking in with the Sarkozys


Adam Gopnik files a mini-profile of French President Nicholas Sarkozy in the New Yorker, and while a lot of it is assertion-by-anecdote, he clears up some of the fog that clouds Sarkozy's image in this country. We're told that the new French president is "pro-American" (i.e., will help us invade stuff) and boldly conservative. It's a little more complex:

Some suspect that Sarkozy's secret strength in resolving the French economic "crisis" may be that there is no crisis. Over the past few years, the stock market has hummed along, and the quality of French life remains remarkably high. Every French worker is still guaranteed those five weeks of vacation, and though the thirty-five-hour week is a folly, it is not a scandal. At the same time, Sarkozy has acted aggressively to create what amounts to the first program of affirmative action in high places in France, including choosing a Muslim woman, Rachida Dati, as the minister of justice. Even the philosopher Pascal Bruckner, who predicted the riots in the poor suburbs in 2005 and does not underestimate the intensity of Muslim alienation—the Muslim vote ran overwhelmingly against Sarkozy, and among his fiercest opponents are many Muslims—thinks in retrospect that the riots were more "American" than they might have seemed at first: that they were mostly a cry of excluded people demanding inclusion in the French state, rather than a first intifada of people who wish to remain outside it, or remake it in the image of their own faith. (A poll last year showed that almost as many French Muslims think of themselves as French first and Muslim second as think of themselves as Muslims first and French second.) Sarkozy is said by those who know him to have a distaste for bien pensant clichés of minority appeasement—he feels that tolerance runs two ways—but he believes in inclusion on the American model, and thinks, perhaps too optimistically, that the problem can be dealt with by providing better jobs and more Muslim faces in big roles.

Not quite as simple as Newt Gingrich suggested, and not as transferrable, as he hoped, to the GOP here.