A VOTE FOR CHANGE
May 8, 2007 -- THE French electorate voted for change by a margin of 6 percentage points on Sunday, ignoring the wild-eyed warnings of the leftist old guard and establishment intellectuals. I never thought I'd see it in my lifetime.
Nicolas Sarkozy, the president the people defiantly chose, is the most inspiring French leader since Charles de Gaulle's fall from power 40 years ago. But, unlike de Gaulle, he doesn't define himself through anti-Americanism.
On the contrary, Sarkozy is the first top-level French politician who openly accepts that the United States possesses virtues from which France might take a lesson. While Sarko's attraction to things American can be overstated - he sees our system's deficiencies, too, and won't always agree with our foreign policy - he'll be a leader who examines issues on their merits, not on the basis of shopworn Left Bank slogans.
What's striking about this victory is Sarkozy's bluntness. Instead of mumbo jumbo about la gloire, he speaks frankly about the mess in which France finds itself. (In one of her countless miscalculations, Sarko's opponent, Ségolène Royal, condemned his forthright manner - but the French were puking sick of empty rhetoric.)
So what can we expect in l'age de Sarkozy? His ability to change a bloated, bureaucratic state will depend largely upon the upcoming parliamentary elections, but, whatever the results, count on nasty rear-guard battles waged by France's garlic-breathed Jimmy Hoffas and pampered university students (at a time when not one French university makes the world's top 200 rankings).
And the more Sarkozy succeeds, the more he'll be hated by the French establishment.
But what does this son of a Hungarian immigrant really believe after all the campaign rhetoric's hosed away?