With the vote on the EU Constitution taking place today in France, this is as good a time as any to award the Weekly Jackass to the French President. Jacques Chirac is hitting the airwaves urging French voters not to use the ratification vote as a referendum on his government, a statement that is remarkable in two ways. First, it is a frank admission by Chirac that his leadership is deeply unpopular, and second, I think the French voters are correct in using this vote as a referendum, for surely, it is the European style of governance that has led to the woes befalling the French nation.
Those woes include high unemployment, nearly nonexistent economic growth, and a strong anti-capitalist bias that hinders the inflow of foreign capital. France is a strong example that even in 'mild' doses, socialism is a failure. Chirac is not a tyrant, but he is surely a Eurocrat, and a potent symbol of the European Union as a whole. Dominated by Germany and France, and somewhat paralyzed by their rivalry, the EU is a bureaucratic Disneyland, a world of highly paid 'civil servants' and diplomats who smooze endlessly, accomplish little, and impede real progress at almost every turn. Quick, name the biggest accomplishment of the European Union. Okay, how about any accompishment at all?
As the great Arthur Chrenkoff noted recently, politics in France (and indeed, the greater part of Europe) seems divided between what most of us would consider the Left and the Far Left, i.e., the clueless versus the insane. It is telling that Chirac's government is considered 'center-right' by Europeans. I am reminded of the fit France and Germany recently threw over the tax policies of the newer, Eastern European EU entrants: they were offended by them because they were too low and were draining capital from the older EU nation-states. Any person with even a modicum of economic good sense would see that as a chance to revisit one's own high rates, but of course, the French and Germans preferred the other nations raise their rates, and just choke off their own economic growth to match the low EU-wide rate.
There are many other ways Chirac has proven himself worthy of the Jackass honorific. Chief among them was his no-holds-barred opposition to the removal of Saddam Hussein. The Bush administration, then and now, has come under fire for a rush to war under false pretenses, and for not pursuing a diplomatic solution robustly. The opponents of the war see vindication of Chirac's opposition; they are quite wrong to do so. We know now that no circumstances would have brought French support short of Saddam's tanks on the outskirts of Paris, and even then, we may be excused for having our doubts.
Chirac himself has not, so far as I know, been named as a personal recipient of Saddam's Oil-For-Food largesse, but certainly some of those close to him partook of the spoils. Even in the world of 'legitimate' dealings with Saddam's Iraq, France was doing quite well for herself. The circumstances of WMD stockpiles or the lack thereof, Saddam's continued involvement with Palestinian terrorists and others, the future of the Baathist tyranny, none of these things mattered: if the Bush administration had pursued diplomacy to the ends of the earth, we would not have brought Chirac around.
None of this even touches on the other Chirac legacy; I am referring to the vain, haughty, and oh-so-French propensity to oppose America simply because she is America. The Iraqi war debate, the EU referendum, the endless parade of anti-American rhetoric wrapped in French chauvinism; all are of a piece with Chirac's failure to see France for what it now is: a second-tier country with a proud past and an uncertain future that has been left dimmer by the failures of Jacques Chirac, our twenty-fifth Weekly Jackass.
UPDATE 5:44 p.m. central: As widely expected, Chirac was unable to deliver; French citizens voted 'Non!' to the EU constitution, and Chirac suffered a humiliating (and well-earned) defeat...
UPDATE 2 6:40 p.m. central: Thanks to the good folks at Power Line for the link; hope you all are enjoying your extended weekend...