Yes, I know I haven’t written in a while. Or at all. I’ve been meaning to thank you for the help in our Revolution. And it was really nice of you to give us that statue in 1876. Lady Liberty still looks great. So, thanks. But, hey, World War II! That was pretty nice of us, right? So let’s call it even.
Anyhoo, I understand you’re thinking about electing a divisive, far right, racist, reprehensibly anti-Muslim, nationalistic (and vaguely fascistic) candidate who has never held public office before.
If you’ll allow me to use the King’s English: Don’t do it!
Now, far be it from me to advise a people as proud and as once-important as you, the French. But we’re almost 100 days into our experiment with a divisive, far right, racist, reprehensibly anti-Muslim, nationalistic (and vaguely fascistic) candidate who has never held public office before, so I think you might benefit from knowing how it’s going.
Let’s put aside policy for a second, because if you elect National Front candidate Marine Le Pen on Sunday – or in round two next month – you’re obviously comfortable with closing the borders to Muslims, pulling out of international trade deals, and destroying the European Union, the only thing that has kept Europe at peace in its 3,000 years of civilization. Maybe you’ll even do what we’re doing and backtrack on the climate agreement that bears the name of your capital city.
Policy is one thing. But I’m talking only about governance. I’m talking about professionalism. I’m talking about a well-run bureaucracy. Sacre bleu! That’s even your word!
Since Jan. 20, when we installed our would-be swamp-drainer, we’ve watched in a mix of bemusement and horror as the President has formed a government filled with people who either don’t know how to do their jobs or don’t want to do their jobs. The head of our environmental, energy, health services, agriculture and housing agencies, for example, have all spoken about destroying their departments. Good people can disagree about what our environmental policy should be – but don’t we all agree we should at least have one?
Meanwhile, the President governs by social media, taking to Twitter several times a day to lie (“How low has President Obama gone to tapp my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!”), promote friendly reporters (“Watch @JudgeJeanine on @FoxNews tonight at 9:00 P.M.”), attack and threaten credible reporters (“The failing @nytimes has disgraced the media world. Gotten me wrong for two solid years. Change libel laws?”), make random attacks on his political foes months after vanquishing them anyway (“Did Hillary Clinton ever apologize for receiving the answers to the debate? Just asking!”), alter the U.S. position on major international issues (“Countries charge U.S. companies taxes or tariffs while the U.S. charges them nothing or little.We should charge them SAME as they charge us!”), negotiate important deals (“I explained to the President of China that a trade deal with the U.S. will be far better for them if they solve the North Korean problem!”), celebrate himself (“I did what was an almost an impossible thing to do for a Republican-easily won the Electoral College!”) and simply attack Arnold Schwarzenegger (“Arnold Schwarzenegger isn’t voluntarily leaving the Apprentice, he was fired by his bad (pathetic) ratings, not by me. Sad end to great show”).
Because he lacks basic convictions – and completely misunderstands how government works – our President changes positions like a Frenchman changes extra-marital lovers. One minute China is the worst currency manipulator on the planet. The next minute, it’s not a currency manipulator at all. And, worse, the President’s rationale for the position change never makes sense.
“Why would I call China a currency manipulator when they are working with us on the North Korean problem?” he tweeted on April 16. Uh, because you did?
One minute he’s telling voters he will replace our health care system with something better and cheaper. The next, he’s backing a bill that would leave 24 million people – most of them, his voters! – without access to that system. I don’t think he’s cruel so much as just bored by all the complicated details. Bomb-throwers tend to walk away after tossing the explosive.
Sorry, I said I wasn’t going to get into policy, but I’m on my second glass of Cote du Rhone, so, factually speaking, it’s your fault. Where was I? Oh, the main reasons you need to reject Le Pen.
Well, first of all, her whole ” France for the French” thing is a knockoff of Trump’s “America First” thing – and if I know anything about you Frogs, I know that you hate American sequels. Unless it’s Jerry Lewis, you think American culture boils down to le SUV, le sweatpants, le hamburger – in total: la merde. Why would you elect someone who wants to bring America’s new values to France?
And, hate to tell you, we can pull off the “America First” thing; you probably can’t. I mean, you guys haven’t been “first” or even tied for first since the early 1800s. We’ve been doing this for a while. People sort of look to us. No offense, but when people think, “What would France do?” they’re usually thinking about what to make for dinner, not how they would solve the Syrian crisis.
But you still have your central position at the heart of the international community. When England votes to “Brexit,” France calls up Germany and says, “You bring the sausage, I’ll bring the frites and we’ll figure something out.” Our President treats diplomacy like it’s a tired old tradition – like powdered wigs in a courtroom – but diplomacy is your thing, France! If you give that up to elect a crazy person then all you’ve got left are croissants and thin women with high-fat diets.
And if you play out the “closed borders” thinking, suddenly you’ll find yourself building two walls – and trying to make Spain and Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg, Switzerland and Italy pay for them. (Italy AND Belgium doing anything together – am I right or am I right?)
Our President doesn’t care about international norms – if he’s not hanging up on a prime minister who bothers him, he’s creating a needless diplomatic crisis by calling the Taiwanese President or cheerleading his coming attack on North Korea with a “U.S.A.” tweet. So if you elect Marine Le Pen, you might also find yourself sending three aircraft carrier groups to the Sea of Japan! (What, you only have one aircraft carrier, France? And it’s named the “Charles De Gaulle”? Quel charmant!)
I should also remind you that our President has reduced government transparency and is issuing executive orders like he’s a king. You had those for a while – remember how that turned out?
And here’s another thing worth considering: If Le Pen wins, how will she govern? Just as we discovered when we elected an outsider with no political base in the Congress, it’s very hard to get legislation passed when the party that elected you has two or three wings, all at odds. The Tea Party conservatives don’t want to make a deal with the Establishment right-wingers who don’t want to make a deal with the nationalistic racists – and none of them will even talk to the Democrats. Imagine a country that has drifted so far to the right that Orrin Hatch is considered a centrist! That’s France if you elect Le Pen.
Now, look, France, I get it. Unemployment in your country is higher than the Eiffel Tower and your nation has been shaken by so many terror attacks that the bad guys are even shooting up C-rate rock concerts. And there’s no doubt that globalization has caused some pains, especially in areas of the country where people feel marginalized. And the fake news the Russians are pumping into your media is fun to read. And, yes, it’s gratifying to rage against the elite class that thinks it’s smarter than the rest of us.
And I realize your main candidates are unappealing, what with center-right candidate François Fillon charged with embezzlement, and pro-Europe candidate Emmanuel Macron more boring than a Godard film. Either one of them would be better than your right-wing demagogue, but you’re treating them like we treated Hillary Clinton, who we all knew was more qualified than the guy who won, but no one wanted to have a beer with.
Do you guys have that idiocy, too? “Oh, I like Macron, but I don’t want to go to the bistro with my mistress, smoke some Gauloises, share a Bordeaux, eat steak frites, not tip the waiter, wear a beret or perform in a mime troupe with him.”
Find a way to pick one of them. Don’t do what we did; don’t let a few legitimate concerns about the most-qualified candidate trick you into electing someone who is not qualified at all. There’s still a chance. Now that we and Britain have abandoned the moral high ground, the whole world looks to France as a beacon of hope, not hate.
And hope is mightier than Le Pen.
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