President Nicolas Sarkozy’s re-election campaign in France is getting a little desperate, and more than a little ugly. Although new polls show him the likely top vote-getter in next month’s first-round voting, they also show him running well behind François Hollande of the Socialist Party in the decisive May runoff. To try and close that gap, Mr. Sarkozy has been fishing for far-right voters by assailing foreign immigrants, foreign imports and even the dietary laws of French Muslims.
Mr. Sarkozy may think it is smart politics to pander to racism and xenophobia. He has done it before. And, sadly, his harsh new tone has given him a quick boost in the polls. But it is damaging to French society. And it may prove a mixed political blessing in May. Many French voters already think that he lacks presidential dignity.
Times are tough in France, but Mr. Sarkozy could have run a more elevated campaign. He has domestic achievements (pension reform) and international achievements (Libya). His main opponent, Mr. Hollande, has vague ideas and unrealistic economic proposals.
Instead, Mr. Sarkozy has chosen the low road. At a packed rally on Sunday, he attacked European Union trade rules, which he said had opened French markets to “savage” competition, and called for a protectionist “buy European” rule for public spending that would raise costs and invite retaliation. He also threatened to suspend French participation in Europe’s 25-nation open border agreement unless others did more to keep illegal immigrants and refugees out of Europe. A few days earlier, he had attacked legal immigration, promising a 50 percent cut in admissions for family reunification.
In a particularly vile gambit from a man who already brags about banning the burqa in public and Muslim-style street prayer, Mr. Sarkozy now pledges to protect French consumers from unknowingly eating halal meat, slaughtered in accordance with Muslim dietary codes. He called for legislation requiring all meat labels to note the slaughtering methods used. This proposal originally came from Marine Le Pen, the presidential candidate of the unabashedly xenophobic National Front. Mr. Sarkozy first rightly called it frivolous. Then he adopted it.
Five million to six million Muslims now live in France, almost a tenth of the total population. It is cruel to keep family members from joining them and cruel and destructive to subject their religion to mockery. Ms. Le Pen is currently running third in the polls. Regrettably, Mr. Sarkozy has no problem being frivolous or cruel if it means he can peel away some of her voters.
France: Après “Nicolas Le Pen” du Wall Street Journal, voici “Sarkozy sur la route de la bassesse” du New York Times.
In less than 2 days, Nicolas Sarkozy performed a miracle; he brought the editorial page of The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal together. Something that we have not seen in a while and we are not about to see any time soon. Indeed, the WSJ editorial page, a bastion of the right and conservatism, has rarely agreed on anything with the editorial page of the NYTimes. Well, Sarkozy’s awfully xenophobic campaign was something that the American left and right agreed to disagree with. Ugly, xenophobic, desperate, racist, radical, divisive, anti-Muslim, frivolous and so on are only a few adjectives used by the NYTimes and the WSJournal editorialists to describe Sarkozy’s campaign. These are journalists and columnists who are used to the rough and tumble American style of politics, and yet they stand bewildered by what Sarkozy and his team have been doing and saying during this campaign.
March 14, 2012
Mr. Sarkozy on the Low Road