For the best notion of how France’s most notorious politician combines bravery with recklessness, go back to 1993. That year, as mayor of Neuillysur-Seine, Sarkozy met face to face with a lunatic threatening to blow up a classroom of preschoolers. Sarkozy negotiated the release of several kids before police stormed in and killed the hostage-taker.
Fast-forward to last November. Over and over, Sarkozy showed the pluck to push to the front of police lines as riots raged in his country’s ghettoes. He’s also shown courage in calling for an overhaul of France’s social code to integrate its poorest immigrants.
On the flip side, he inflamed passions by calling the rioters “scum” to be blasted with power hoses, and by announcing that he’ll deport 120 foreigners convicted of rioting.
Cool heads predict that Sarkozy’s mouth may undo him. They admit that he’s smart, energetic and brave, but say his run-ins with liberals may stunt his ambitions.
His reply: “You want to be understood as givers of lessons. I want to be heard by the people. I use words everyone understands. You say ‘populism.’ I reply ‘people.’”
Sounds like a leader to us.
— Adapted from “The impetuous gambler,” John Thornhill, Financial Times.