A few weeks ago I saw in interview with Nicolas Sarkozy on the Charlie Rose Show. I was impressed in two ways: the first, at how fierce and unapologetic he was about his ambitions and vision. He repeated a few times that his life had been a constant struggle, from the bottom up, each step upwards as likely to lead to a slide down the ladder of political power and recognition as up. In this he reminded me of Benjamin Disraeli, whose life up to a certain point, reads like a slipsliding tale of climbing up a greasy pole. And here I come to my second impression about Sarkozy, that he lacked wit and charm, two qualities which Disraeli had in abundance. That got me thinking, how much more strenuous his hike up the French power structure must have been, due to the absence of these qualities, which the French admire so much. And how strong is the case he presents to the French electorate, if they are going to vote him into power.
Here is a portrait of Sarko:
Sarkozy is the closest to a neoconservative, free market libertarian, pro-American, pro-Zionist, unapologetic nationalist, pro-globalization candidate who could make it onto the ballot in France. Though many Jewish voters will probably maintain their leftwing voting habits, a significant sector of the Jewish community loves him like a brother. Jewish people are prominent in French public life; some assert their identity proudly and others flash it as a permit to trash Israel, some soft pedal it to avoid charges of parochialism, some never mention it, some are Christian converts, many have Frenchified their names.
Sarkozy is Catholic, but does not hide his Jewish affinities. His parents divorced in 1959, when he was four. His charming but unreliable Hungarian father went off to new adventures, his mother and the three boys moved in with her father, Benedict Mallah, a Jewish immigrant from Salonika who converted to Catholicism in 1917 when he fell in love with a widow from Lyon. Sarkozy’s wife Cecilia has similar mixed origins: her father is Jewish, from Eastern Europe, her mother is a Spanish Catholic. Nicolas Sarkozy has been openly, enthusiastically, abundantly friendly to the state of Israel and the French-Jewish community… particularly in the past seven years of explosive Jew hatred and virulent anti-Zionism. At every major incident, he has promised—as Minister of the Interior—that the culprits will be found, tried, and punished. The results have been meager but he is judged on his intentions.
Come to think of it, he also shares with Disraeli a converso identity.
"Civilization is not self-supporting. It is artificial. If you are not prepared to concern yourself with the upholding of civilization -- you are done." (Ortega y Gasset)
Saturday, March 17, 2007