It's becoming harder and harder to remember that Nicolas Sarkozy was once a Balladurien--a neoliberal centrist. Then he was Sarko l'Américain--a muscularly compassionate conservative in the style of George W. Bush. In 2012, with the help of Patrick Buisson, he became a sort of Le Pen Lite. And now, all on his own, he is bidding fair to become Le Pen Heavy. Take a look at the list of positions he embraces in his new book: end family reunification, suspend the droit du sol (jus soli), end economic migration, ban the veil in the university, create an exceptional tribunal to try terrorist crimes, draconian sentences for recidivists, assign sentence determination to prosecutors rather than judges, etc. The old Sarko reappears in some relatively mild economic proposals, such as raising the legal age of retirement to 64 and eliminating payroll taxes on overtime wages. But he also wants to eliminate the wealth tax and the 35-hr week altogether.
This is a "no-enemies-to-my-right" platform. And it might just work. Juppé's rocket has been a bit of a dud thus far. Retail campaigning isn't really his thing, and mushy centrists seem to be drawn to the new kid on the block, Macron, whose fan dance at least keeps them guessing, whereas Juppé is just the same old same old (as well as old, literally). Of course Sarko faces the handicaps of strong negatives and various affairs under investigation (but so does Hillary Clinton, and she's winning).
Sarko has been more or less forced into cette surenchère sécuritaire by the fact that terrorism has everybody in France more or less unhinged. The moderate Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet was on the radio this morning calling for an outright ban on Salafism in France, and Valls is not far behind. With such tough competition, Sarko has little choice but to go for the gold: Tuez-les tous, le bon Dieu reconnaîtra les siens. I used to think my fellow Americans were champions at losing their sang-froid, but I now see that the French have overtaken us.