Thursday, July 16, 2009

I like Sarkozy

There are many things the French are good at, though I don't think government is one of them. Despite that, I have a lot of respect for the French president, Nicolas Sarkozy. He is very French: dapper, amorous, talking with his hands, passionate. He is a politician but he seems to be himself. Even if it is sometimes a tad larger than life, his persona appears grounded in his personality, that of a bon vivante who also wants to accomplish something and do right by his republic.

He is labeled a conservative and got along well with the last American president. He is French though, so his perceived conservatism may be be difficult for American eyes to discern. He's no McCain or Palin or Bush or Cheney. He maybe wants factory workers not to threaten to blow up the factories they're being laid off from. He may want to cajole, though not force, people to work something like a forty-hour week for lavishly subsidized benefits. He seems to like government accountability for money spent, in France. And he is more business-friendly than most Frenchmen, even French executives who are usually publicly apologetic about every decision they make. Atlas didn't shrug in France. He moved to Idaho to tutor libertarian militiamen. It was a direct flight to Boise without entering Logan or enjoying the hi jinx played out under the watchful eye of the Sacred Cod.
Even when he's in hot water, Sarkozy swims with aplomb and grace, with a world weariness and acceptance that doesn't cramp his style or diminish his joie de vivre. The photo above is not provided with any context and I don't want to discuss how the American president was really turning to help someone off frame down a steep step. Let us take the photo alone and admire Sarkozy, a man who has seen his share of debauchery, no doubt, and who knows how to sum up events with a knowing eye. He's not exactly smug, just contented as a cat that has eaten its share of canaries.

I haven't done much investigating on this photo, but I doubt there is as much reaction to M. Sarkozy's pose as there is to Mr. Obama's. Everyone is aware the French President appreciates curves in the right places and he also enjoys the play of sparks when boy meets girl or man meets woman and all the trouble and pleasure that follow. He's not Berlusconi. He is younger, more dashing, and better equipped to get away from a naughty kerfluffle without political ramifications. He's Sarkovy, a ladies' man, but a man of France. A president not a demagogue.

What does this have to do with Boston or Dorchester? Do a little photoshopping in your head. Replace Obama with Mayor Menino. Replace Sarkozy with Sam Yoon. Their personalities are not close parallels, in fact people compare Yoon to Obama, somewhat unjustly, more often than not. Sam Yoon is no Barack Obama though he may be a candidate for change. The differences between them are more than the similarities. Yoon's rhetoric doesn't soar, but the bar is set an increment above pothole level in Boston so it doesn't take much height to gain traction and then eventual liftoff. Yoon isn't an orator from what I've gathered. He is pretty smart though from all available evidence.

I'm not sure what people compare the incumbent mayor to and I'm not sure all of the comparisons would be flattering. If Mayor Menino had a current European president as a doppelganger, I don't know...the president of Belgium? Luxembourg? Lichtenstein? There isn't a ham-handed, inscrutable Soviet bloc anymore so it's hard to say.

Anyhow, I can picture the incumbent mayor being snapped in a compromising backwards glance to help a constituent down a steep step and, in the moment of the flash bulb, it may seem like he was ogling some passing girl's shapely hindquarters. The documentary evidence would provoke a chuckle because, as every Bostonian knows, the Urban Mechanic is focused on doing right for Boston every minute of every 24-hour day without time for frivolous thoughts or passing fancies. The pillow talk in Hyde Park is geared more to curing insomnia than stoking passion.

As for Yoon replacing Sarkozy? That's a tough fit too. This boyish, exuberant candidate has a young family and doesn't appear to be a tomcat. What he does when no one is watching is none of our business and we are not watching. We are looking to Boston's future and how the city should be run. Sam Yoon certainly doesn't have as much experience under his belt as Nicolas Sarkozy. Few men do. If Sarkozy had chosen to vacation in Boston instead of on the shores of Lake Winnipesaukee father north, Bostonians would have a chance to see a world leader up close in repose instead of the usual panorama of parochial leaders in action. Yoon is always earnest but he also always seems relaxed, comfortable in his own skin.

That fact alone makes him more like Sarkozy than the current incumbent mayor. The incumbent is comfortable in his role as Boston's mayor but, obviously, not comfortable being anything else. If he were, he wouldn't be maneuvering to be in office longer than anyone else in this old city's history. He could find another arena in which to play his talents to their fullest to better social benefit. If you are good at one thing, you may be better at others if you give yourself a chance. Human Resource professionals catagorize this as either personal or professional growth depending on the circumstances. People stuck in one view of themselves are sometimes called Peter Pan by laymen. You can't go home again.

Sarkozy will be voted out of office some day as will Obama, no matter how much or little leering either of them do. One of them, because of term limits, doesn't have a choice. I haven't looked into the details of the current French constitution, but I doubt Sarkozy will mind passing on the reins of power and going on enjoying his life at its next stage as an seasoned, elder statesman. That says much of a man, and a leader. We all have our roles but only when it is appropriate to the play. Actors don't stay on stage after their lines don't add to the plot. Politicians shouldn't either.
It's up to the voters of course, but I posit this: If you caught the incumbent doing something out of character in his role as mayor, would you be embarrassed for him? I would because even when he rides a bicycle, which is out of character despite the health claims he's made, or the reversal on whether charter schools are good, the incumbent is more wind sock than mechanic. Whoever is the next mayor will be granted public goodwill for awhile and then outlive their usefulness. A Wang computer in 2112. We upgrade every other device when they wear out in everything other aspects of our lives, why not Boston's executive office>
Maybe Thomas Menino has a few good years left in him. Whatever the upcoming election reults, he's no Nicolas Sarkozy.



Jessica Secrist said...

Great posting! I love the way you used this picture to talk about Boston's upcoming election- that so many people don't event know about!

As far as term limits and elections are concerned, I think it's time for our mayor to gracefully leave office. He's done a pretty good job and should gracefully leave- instead of pulling these Brett Favre moments where he's confident everyone wants him to just keep going. We don't, and it's time for new ideas.

I'd like to see him retire happily and maybe ride that bicycle more often, instead of seeing him plastered all over the city.

I think you're spot on, I would liken Yoon to more of an Obama figure, because the man is a wonderful speaker- but you've made a great case for him being Sarkozy-like.

Whalehead King said...

Thanks, Jessica. You said hit the nail on the head when you say "retire gracefully."
Sorry these political essays seem to be so long.


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