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Debating the French Debate: An American’s Opinion

A Combination Picture of the Candidates by Combination Picture of the Candidates by

Screen shot from France24 shot from France24

Philippe Poutou During the Debate, Photo by Lionel Bonaventure, AFPPhilippe Poutou During the Debate, Photo by Lionel Bonaventure, AFP

Ten Out of Eleven Candidates...Photo by AFPTen Out of Eleven Candidates…Photo by AFP

Eleven candidates…yes, eleven (!) for the presidency of France participated in a televised debate last night over the course of four hours…yes, four hours! I wondered if any of them might have to make a trip to the loo or were they too busy defending their viewpoints that they forgot about their bladders?

I am not ashamed to admit that I didn’t watch it and instead went for a nice Vietnamese dinner in the “hood,” then checked out what the press had to say this morning. National news channel France 24 ran brief excerpts from the debate and Douglas Herbert, my favorite journalist on France 24, the Foreign Affairs Commentator, commented in his usual intelligent way. In one of his tweets, he wrote that the best line of the night was when Philippe Poutou said, “Just because I’m not wearing a tie doesn’t mean you should cut me off.”

Philippe Poutou is a trade unionist and politician of the French extreme left, the New Anti-Capitalist Party (NPA) candidate and a autoworker at the Ford factory in Blanquefort, Gironde. Yes, he was the only man on the stage who wasn’t wearing a tie and at the end of the debate, dodged having his photo taken with the others (maybe he had to go to the loo!). And why on earth was he there when in the 2012 presidential election he only got 1.5% of the vote? There are really only three or four candidates worth discussing, so why so many up there that don’t have a chance in hell? Perhaps this is France’s way of showing “égalité?” It seems like a waste of air time to me.

Marine Le Pen, leader of the National Front (FN) party, and the only other candidate not wearing a tie besides Nathalie Arthaud, was attacked from all sides. I can’t say I’m unhappy to hear this. I keep hoping that the French who are witnessing the havoc our American populist president is creating on all fronts won’t want the same backwards direction. Like our own adorable “45” (I can’t bear to say his name), Madame Le Pen wants to control France’s borders, do away with the euro and is in favor of “Frexit” — an exit from the European Union.

Lord, help us. She honestly thinks this will improve life in France!? She is delusional. Everyone in the press seems to be giving Emanuel Macron a decided lead. He believes “nationalism is war,” and I tend to agree. He gave Le Pen a bare-knuckle punch when he accused her of saying the same lies as her father for the last 40 years. Meanwhile, she’s trying to disassociate from the bad blood of her father, Jean-Marie, but that’s not working. Even François Fillon gave her a blow on the same subject, calling her ideas as old as “fossils.”

Fillon is the right leaning candidate for the Republican party who could take the vote of those who prefer not to be as far right as Le Pen, but he screwed up big-time by paying hundreds of thousands of euros to his family for work they didn’t actually do. Oops. That will bite him in the butt…and yes, it has.

Another right-winger is François Asselineau, who is also in favor of Frexit. What are they thinking? Don’t you agree that this is dumb, dumb, dumb? Or am I the only one who sees the European Union as a huge advantage…kind of like the United States — more powerful together than apart? Why divide and allow some other stronger power to conquer? Like Russia?

The BBC commented that there were really only two candidates who were defending the establishment: François Fillon and Emmanuel Macron. Everyone else wanted change. Don’t we all? But maybe not the same kind of change.

Macron is young (just 40 years old), not bad looking (always a plus), and was an investment banker before his political life as Minister of Economy, Industry and Digital Affairs under Hollande’s administration and split off from the Socialist party to launch his own party last year, “En Marche.” I like the fact that maybe his education went beyond Economics 101 since I think France’s number one issue is economic woes. Who ever dreamed the 35-hour work week would work (it didn’t), and what’s this about the cost of labor being so high that employers can’t afford to employ? (Besides, I like the young, good looking part, too.)

A last debate is scheduled for April 20th and the first round of the election takes place just three days later on April 23rd. One candidate needs to win at least 50%+ of the vote, or there will be a second round on May 7th. The most recent polls say that Le Pen and Macron will face each other off in the second round. That’s probably about right since Fillon’s indefensible corruption scandal puts too big a bite in his bottom.

Sadly, I can’t vote. I’m just a resident, not a citizen, but I still have a voice and I suppose you can guess who’s got my favor?

A la prochaine…

Adrian Leeds - circa 1992

Adrian Leeds
Adrian Leeds Group

(Circa 1992)

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P.S. “Le Matisse,” my apartment near the sea in the Carré d’Or district, and the two-bedroom apartment next door, is available for short stays to friends of Parler Paris, Parler Nice and the Adrian Leeds Group. Email [email protected] for more information and to book your stay!


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