Tony Blankley

Occasionally a news story crosses the wire that defies any obvious categorizing. Reuters ran such a story on Monday, which I would describe as the AFL-CIO meets Monty Python. According to the wire story that ran at 14:18 E.S.T., French diplomats went on strike for 24 hours over what they judged to be excessive cuts in their budget at the French Foreign Office.

Of course, one's first thought is, how can you tell? Did either war or peace break out at a faster rate as the diplomats lay down their briefcases and put aside their professional sneers? As I understand the theory of workforce strikes, workers who produce things of value refuse to contribute their labor to the production process. The owners of the means of production, fearing being driven to the financial wall by not having valuable things to sell, capitulate and agree to higher wages and better working conditions for the downtrodden, but valuable, workers.

It would not seem that the French diplomats are in a particularly strong bargaining position. Surely a non-striking member of management could dash into a meeting with, say, American diplomats, and glare across the table and say "Non!" Admittedly, the professional French diplomat would precede such a response with several paragraphs of incomprehensible, but highly intellectual-sounding circumlocutions before getting to the point of saying "Non," but the result for France would be the same. Similarly, while the diplomats are on strike, almost any French citizen could take their places at cocktail parties with English or American guests and refuse to talk in any language but French. He could even speak especially fast, so that even their foreign guests who can speak some French would have a particularly hard time understanding them.

According to Reuters, at the French embassy in Rome in the fresco-decorated Renaissance Palazzo Farnese, the embassy was "closed to the public" because of the strike. How does that differ, functionally, from being open to the public? At their London embassy a recorded message said that they would be operating "at a reduced service," which brings to mind the equation 0 x plus or minus X = 0.

But beyond the matter of their professional utility, it is odd that a profession whose raison d'etre is talk, not action, would snap quickly into action on its own behalf. Why didn't they negotiate, using all their vaunted diplomatic skills? Is it possible that French diplomats don't believe in diplomacy when it comes to things they really care about? Are they brothers under the skin with President Bush after all when it comes to judging the efficacy of diplomacy?

Tony Blankley

Tony Blankley, a conservative author and commentator who served as press secretary to Newt Gingrich during the 1990s, when Republicans took control of Congress, died Sunday January 8, 2012. He was 63.

Blankley, who had been suffering from stomach cancer, died Saturday night at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, his wife, Lynda Davis, said Sunday.

In his long career as a political operative and pundit, his most visible role was as a spokesman for and adviser to Gingrich from 1990 to 1997. Gingrich became House Speaker when Republicans took control of the U.S. House of Representatives following the 1994 midterm elections.

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