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New York Post

 

A French Rudy

May 07, 2007

By Fred Siegel

IF Nicholas Sarkozy, the new president-elect of France, reminds you of Rudy Giuliani, there’s a reason. Sarkozy really is a kind of French Giuliani. More, he’s clearly learned some things from Rudy (the two have met) - and his success may have lessons for Giuliani in his bid to become U.S. president.

Most accounts simply note that Sarkozy is remarkably pro-American for a French politician - describing America as “the greatest democracy in the world.”

But when you get into the details of his admiration, you start hearing echoes of Rudy:

* “France,” Sarkozy quips, “is like the Anglo-Saxon countries when it comes to inequality and poverty - but without their social mobility and full employment.”

* He also mocks French anti-Americans as people who “envy” America’s “brilliant success.”

* Speaking to 300,000 French citizens who’ve fled the stagnation of their homeland for jobs in London, Sarkozy committed blasphemy by the normal rules of French politics: He praised England’s less regulated and more dynamic economy as a model for France.

Yes, the French elected a man who promises a “rupture with the past” - for the same reason New Yorkers reluctantly elected Giuliani in 1993: because conditions were bad enough to risk change.

Some 70 percent of the French think their deeply indebted and grossly over-taxed country is in perilous decline; books on the country’s bleak future have become a small publishing industry in Paris. Like Giuliani in ’93, Sarkozy bluntly presents himself as a turnaround artist who can redeem the promise of lost greatness by challenging the conventional political assumptions of the permanent government of civil servants, political insiders and over-mighty interest groups who all feed off of a bloated state.

Both men are hard-edged originals with bruising political styles, energetic and inner-directed - outsiders to their political establishments who attract both a devoted following and bitter hostility.

Above all else, each has a hard-to-categorize politics - one that capitalizes on popular resentment of insulated elites clinging to the outdated ideologies of the 1960s.

Giuliani as mayor mocked the “compassionate” liberalism that left masses of people trapped in welfare while providing guaranteed jobs and votes for Gotham’s Democrats. Sarkozy similarly mocks the “egalitarianism” of the French civil service - who have near-total job security and fat pensions, even as their management has left French unemployment running double the American rate for 30 years.

The two men met in 2002, when Giuliani had been invited to France to provide advice on how to combat the rising crime rate and Sarkozy was serving as Interior minister. The Frenchman talked to the American about “broken windows” policing and New York’s famed COMSTAT program, which provided a meaningful metric for policing. More recently, Sarkozy has been talking up New York-style welfare reform - requiring the able-bodied to take available jobs.

Just as Giuliani wanted to make New York, with its Francified bureaucracies, more like the rest of America, Sarkozy wants to make France more like the more market-oriented Anglo-American economies. Both are critics of multiculturalism - and neither accepts that crime or terrorism can be explained by social causes.

Each talks in a language foreign to the elites - emphazing personal responsibility and the importance of the work ethic. In his recent book, “Témoignage” [“Testimony”], Sarkozy takes aim at those on the French left who depict the rioting Muslim youth of the banlieues as victims of police brutality and French racism. In a riff that’s nearly pure Giuliani, he points to the massive social spending in the banlieue - and notes that it seems to have sown far more resentment than good will. Rudy-like, he argues that the young rioters have to adjust to France - rather than the other way around.

The similarities go beyond policy and persona. Sarkozy ran not only against Socialist candidate Segolene Royal, but against criticism of his own aggressive political style. Facing Royal in a crucial debate just days before the election, he managed to constrain his combatative personality lest he be seen as too aggressive. He passed the test, can Giuliani?

Sarkozy also had to overcome the unpopularity of sitting President Jacques Chirac, a member of his own party. Placed on the defensive by the failures of his fellow Gaullist, Sarkozy carefully but convincingly called for reversing the economic policies associated with the incumbent - without mentioning Chirac by name.

Giuliani, who has offered himself up as the salvation of a sinking Republican Party, should be watching closely. If he wins the Republican nomination, he’ll similarly have to thread the needle of distancing himself from President Bush’s foreign-policy failings without too directly criticizing the president.

The French Rudy pulled it off. Will the American Sarkozy manage it, too?

Original Source: http://www.nypost.com/p/news/opinion/opedcolumnists/item_YMxdnAIKEoN1ITDQbcfpMP

 

 
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