When Nicolas Sarkozy ran for president of France in 2007, his campaign offered a lot of lessons Republicans should have learned. I composed from them a minor curriculum, here. Republicans learned none of them, sadly.
Now, as it turns out, neither did Sarko. Despite the hopes of the voters who swept him into office on the promise of reform and fiscal sobriety, he produced no serious proposal to roll back even a few months of the 50 years of Socialist lunacy that has brought France to an economic stand-still. Instead, he made a “carbon tax” the centerpiece of his administration’s proposed initiatives. It was despised, ridiculed, and finally abandoned. Like Sarkozy himself.
His party’s defeat at the hands of the Socialists and the Greens in the regional elections last week was predicted – and then perhaps misinterpreted. Most analysis, such as that contained in this Economist piece, argues correctly that voters turned on Sarko because he didn’t deliver on the center-right reforms he promised. But the success of the parties who most represent high taxation and environmental extremism is more likely to be a result of voting against Sarkozy than voting for the policies voters have come to view with repulsion. The only hope the Socialists have to transform the local results into a national mandate is if Sarkozy continues to fail to understand why he’s so disliked. As this Guardian piece shows, Sarko’s delivering on that promise, anyway.
When French politicians run into problems, they seek refuge in America. In the past, this meant blaming everything on the U.S.; habitual anti-Americanism was one of the most reliable ways of cloaking political incompetence. To his credit, Sarkozy rejected that strategy. He’s seeking refuge in America for real. As Le Figaro, a paper normally sympathetic to his cause, wryly reports, “Sarkozy the American” is back, arriving quietly last weekend, his arm decorated with Carla Bruni. Badly beaten in the local elections and mauled in the polls, Sarkozy no doubt feels safer in Central Park than he does in Paris.
To ingratiate himself with Obama, who once turned down a Sarko dinner invite, he has taken to talking up Obamacare. In upper Manhattan, at a speech at an institution Le Figaro exotically calls the University of Columbia, Sarko hailed Obama’s triumph and spoke as one who also understands what the people really want. Even though he’s deperate to trim health care in France because the system’s bankrupt, Sarkozy explained to a student audience that the health care debate was settled 50 years ago in his country. “In France,” he said condescendingly, “we do not ask for your credit card” before admitting sick people to the hospital. (Fine print: Offer valid only to visitors who can present proof of insurance coverage.) The Columbians applauded the tourist – and he got the White House dinner invitation.
Sarkozy apparently knows about as much about American health care as a Democrat: They don’t ask for credit cards in American emergency rooms before giving people treatment either, and if they did, they’d be breaking the law. Until Obamacare comes into effect, anyone who’s seriously ill, even a visiting French president, will be given treatment at almost any public hospital in the U.S.A. If you can’t pay, it’s free. Good thing we’ve reformed that.