Sarkozy: It's French for "worn out"

Off the record, ministers and advisors in Nicolas Sarkozy’s government tell Le Monde: He’s paralyzed, he’s worn out, we can’t execute all his plans, he’s contradictory, he’s a control freak who can’t control what a freak he is…well, I’ll let them tell it. As always, the Sarkozy government is fun in its own right, and perhaps instructive as a funhouse mirror of administrations closer to home. Fun excerpts:

The hyper-presidency has reached its limits. The method was supposed to allow quicker action, by having every reform led from Elysée Palace. Ater two years, the machine seems to have seized up.

The Elysée can’t manage to implement the 1,001 reforms announced amid great media pomp. There’s no follow-up. “Once a decision has been made we can’t follow reforms through. It’s humanly, administratively, impossible,” says a presidential advisor.

“We have to rebuild a government, a real one, and put a screen between the president and events,” urges a minister. “Nicolas Sarkozy must do what he doesn’t know how to do: work in a team and value his ministers,” says a second. “The question is to know whether he’s able to question himself after two years of power.” Says a third: “He has to allow ministers who are personalities and can, up to a point, have their own policies.”

The head of state, who blames his impopularity and his increased caution to the economic crisis alone, says nothing needs to change. “He is utterly serene,” says a counsellor.

But to listen to the president, no personality of sufficient counterweight is available outside the government. Jean-Pierre Raffarin? He doesn’t get along with the president. [Wells here: that’s new. Raffarin wrote a book in 2007 about why France needed Sarkozy as president.] Alain Juppé? He’s an “old fellow,” they say.

As I said, funhouse mirror. (There’s a lot more Elysée scuttlebutt in Arnaud Leparmentier’s fascinating article, but I’ll leave it to fellow Sarkologists to read the rest of his piece in peace.) The parallels to the Harper government are obvious, the differences in style obvious too, but I must say that when I read David Brooks’ thoughtful column the other day about Obama and his team (“I fear that in trying to do everything at once, they will do nothing well”) I thought of Sarkozy. Not that the two experiments in hyper-activist government must end the same way, but that they could.

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