Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Mr. Clean Has a New Problem

Marc Ladreit de Lacharrière, the same financier who paid Mme Fillon €100,000 euros for three pages of book reports, also lent €50,000 interest-free to her husband. No problem, says his lawyer. He paid it back. But in the US an interest-free loan is a gift that incurs a tax liability. I don't know what the law is in France. The investigators are looking into this, as well as into the activities of M. Fillon's consulting firm, which also has a connection to Ladreit. The Republicans are going to regret having stuck with Fillon.

J'y suis, j'y reste.

The words uttered by MacMahon at Malakoff might as well be those of Fillon at Trocadéro. And there he remains, a survivor, the last man on the island, the others having been voted off, he claims, by le peuple de droite if not, in his more grandiose moments of self-pity, le Peuple tout court. Thomas Legrand's editorial this morning compared Fillon to de Gaulle, not to flatter him but to diminish him. De Gaulle had a knack for dramatizing political differences, for turning nuances into existential crises; it served him well. Fillon has dramatized his petty personal corruption--his "errors," as he calls them--into a similar existential crisis, a "civil war" in which the fate of la Grande Nation hangs in the balance. The effect is bathetic rather than tragic, tragicomic rather than Racinian, as Gérard Courtois puts it this morning.

So that is where we are. The fundamentals have not changed. Fillon will continue to be dogged by protesters with casseroles wherever he goes. His hypocrisy has now fallen like the rain at Trocadéro on many of the LR comrades who had deserted the sinking ship but have now returned because they see no alternative. It will be amusing to watch those who had previously denounced the wounded candidate invent formulas to praise his bravery in fighting on, bloodied but unbowed, for the sake of his "political family."

I doubt that Juppé will be among the hypocrites, even though he is to meet with Fillon and Sarkozy today. His renunciation speech yesterday was bitter but becoming, a rare moment of lucidity and honesty in an otherwise sordid political passage. It was also poignant: "For me it is too late." He might as well have said, "For the center-right it is too late." Fillon has gone over to the dark side, relying on the radicalized social conservative movement Sens Commun to organize the Trocadéro rally and turn out the troops that enabled Fillon to carry the day. This was the meaning of Juppé's charge that "the core of LR's militants has been radicalized."

So we now have two parties of the far right contending for the presidency, with the gay-friendly and relatively laïque FN the more "socially liberal" of the two. And we have two parties of the far left, Mélenchon's France Insoumise and Hamon's PS with its unrealistic program of 32-hour-week, basic minimum income of some sort, and incompatible proposals for debt mutualization coupled with new borrowing for investment.

In the center Macron stands alone, hoping it can hold against the extremes. We await the next round of polls as the dust from the Fillon affair begins to settle. Who knows where voters will shake out? Many Juppéistes will undoubtedly jump to Macron, but it's difficult to say how the remainder will split between the LR and the FN.