I sat down with some of the people in charge and asked them why the government just doesn’t take away strike pay, and therefore remove any incentive to stay off the job. I also wanted to know why there is any fear of unions in France when President Nicolas Sarkozy passed a law after the 2007 strikes mandating a minimum service level. “He has a parliamentary majority,” I said, “So he can do whatever he wants. Why doesn’t he?” Apparently the fear is that France is so heavily unionized that if they all wanted to walk out, there wouldn’t be enough police power to stop them nor enough jails to hold them. It’s not like Sarkozy could just fire everyone, like Reagan did with the air traffic controllers. Unless he wants the kind of paralysis that his predecessor Jacques Chirac saw in the mid-1990s.
Sarkozy was elected to reform France – which he is trying relentlessly to do -- but his message is getting lost in the viciously leftist French media. The guillotine has been replaced by French printing presses: “The Zombies Of The Republic”, screamed the front cover of Le Point, promoting a story portraying all of his ministers as either puppets or crybabies. “Divorce: Why The French Are Abandoning Him”, read the cover of Marianne magazine, before going on to call Sarkozy’s denial of economic stimulus funds for people already swimming in the public trough of French social services “the unpardonable mistake.” Every day, La Liberation newspaper attacks those “rich bosses” in its cover story, further fanning the flames of class envy, ignoring that Sarkozy himself, who didn’t go to any of the “right” schools, is hardly wealthy himself.
The best Sarkozy can ever hope for is a fair shake in Le Figaro, whose editorial slant is about the ideological equivalent of the New York Times.
And then there’s the treachery within his own party – the people who have one hand on his shoulder and the other on a sharp knife tucked behind their back. They see the media dogpile as an opportunity to possibly exploit for the sake of their own political career and future.
“Sarko The American” isn’t one to suffer fools gladly. He’s not the type to meet twenty times about an issue, after which everyone has forgotten why they were even meeting in the first place. No – Sarko is the closest thing the country has seen to a leader of action and impact since Generals De Gaulle and Napoleon. And that scares people who would rather sit around and talk about something ad infinitum and “think tank” it to death, for fear that any action might provoke a consequence.
Napoleon himself best sums up Sarkozy’s current battle: “Four hostile newspapers are more to be feared than a thousand bayonets.”
If only there were a mere four.