Don't Let Me Stop You

What the heck, you'll do what you want anyway.

Nicolas Sarkozy

Posted by Dan Draney on November 14, 2005

The French Interior Minister, Nicolas Sarkozy, is not backing down. Opponents have tried to blame him for the riots that have now been “winding down” for 5 days. Sarkozy’s sin was to use indelicate language in promising to clean up the crime-ridden housing projects where the riots are occurring. He also described some of the criminals as “racaille,” which means “riffraff,” but has been widely translated in the English language press as “scum.”

Sarkozy seemed to have been eclipsed in the news reports by President Chirac and Prime Minister de Villepin for awhile there, but you can’t keep a good man down. As al-Reuters reports:

“Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy reiterated a controversial pledge to throw out foreigners caught rioting, saying the expulsions could begin at the start of this week. ‘If you want to live in France with a residency permit you have to abide by the laws,’ he said on Saturday night.

He has been criticized for using tough language during the crisis and was heckled by a crowd on Saturday.

The opposition Socialists accused him on Sunday of acting tough to increase his chances of becoming president in a 2007 election. But opinion polls show the emergency measures are widely supported by French citizens.

A poll published in Le Journal du Dimanche showed 53 percent of people were confident Sarkozy could resolve the problems in impoverished suburbs and fewer than one in three thought Chirac, who has kept a low profile during the crisis, could do so.”

It would be interesting to see how de Villepin and the rest of the French political class fared in that poll. Our guess is Sarkozy’s 53 percent is probably near the top, if not at the top. We’re tempted to accuse the “oppostion Socialists” of acting wimpy to increase their chances of regaining power in the 2007 elections. However, let’s give both sides the benefit of the doubt and assume that Sarkozy actually thinks getting tough with the toughs is good policy and that the Socialists are really believe that appeasement is the way to go.

This al-Reuters article continually refers to the rioters as “youths” or our personal favorite “youngsters.” It almost calls up an image of rampaging Cub Scouts. Those poor, misunderstood kids.

William F. Buckley has another idea on dealing with the root causes:

“‘My view is unorthodox,’ Mr. Buckley says of the violence roiling the French suburbs. ‘It seems to me that a very hard dose of market discipline would distract the attention of the young revolutionaries from their frolics, traditional and otherwise, and my sense is that if they had to worry about how to eat, and buy food, they would stop screwing around and face reality. If these people didn’t wake up in the morning thinking about what cars to burn–instead of work–they might not be having these problems.'”

He’s right, of course, but the French are not yet willing to give up the pleasant illusion that they can prosper by insulating themselves from economic reality forever.

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