May 31, 2005

The Great French Political Spiral

PARIS (Reuters) - French President Jacques Chirac named loyalist Dominique de Villepin as his new prime minister on Tuesday in a shake-up of the government following his crushing defeat over the European Union constitution.

Villepin replaces the unpopular Jean-Pierre Raffarin who quit earlier on Tuesday. He is a former interior and foreign minister who angered the United States but won French hearts with his fierce opposition to the U.S.-led war in Iraq.


"It's like re-arranging deck chairs on the Titanic. Chirac has a lame duck government now and the problems of rejuvenating the reform process are huge," said David Brown, chief European economist at investment bank Bear Stearns.

Great analogy.

Meanwhile, the ever-anonymous "U.S. analysts" warn Americans not to gloat over this recent EU shortfall:

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Despite the temptation to gloat at French President Jacques Chirac's humiliation, the United States stands to lose from the potentially crippling setback for the European Union's constitution, U.S. analysts say.


"Given the U.S.-French feuding of the last few years, there will undoubtedly be some 'schadenfreude' in Washington," said Ronald Asmus, a former top Pentagon official, using a German term that means to rejoice at another person's misfortune.

"But it would be a mistake."

Is that so?
Philip Gordon, a former Clinton-era National Security Council official on Europe, said the rejection by French voters of an institution that Paris had done so much to build up was bound to delight some Bush administration conservatives.

"They were worried this was a constitution that would undermine NATO and build up the EU as a counterweight to the United States, and they are no doubt relieved and in some places giddy to see Chirac in so much trouble," he said.

"They would rather see a divided Europe in which we could cherry-pick allies."

I prefer to call it the ability to "separate the men from the boys" and to "discern those who are willing to fight to preserve and promote democracy rather than profit from oppression and drown in dhimmitude."

Posted by Kyer at May 31, 2005 11:43 AM