L'Esroc finally commented on the Clearstream affair yesterday. The BBC reports that he made a fairly strong statement:
"I have every confidence in the government of Dominique de Villepin to lead the mission I gave him," he said, speaking after a weekly cabinet meeting,
"The Republic is not a dictatorship of rumours, a dictatorship of false accusations. The Republic is the law," he said, urging investigators to speed up their work.
However it also notes that this is, essentially, l'Escroc's first public statement on the affair and this is, to be frank, a further example of the recent reclusive Chirac. For the last year or more, basically ever since the start of the campaign for the EU Constitution Referendum, l'Escroc has been nearly invisible and unable (or unwilling) to set the political agenda. In 2002/2003 he was without a doubt proactively pushing for things. In 2004, with rumours of rows with Sarko, it seemed like he was still very much in control of the government but for the last year and a bit this has changed.
During the EU Constitution Referendum campaign we saw the first signs that he was losing his magic touch. His TV appearences were bad, with him coming across as a sort of old-fashioned teacher lecturing his recalcitrant pupils about matters. After he lost the referendum he has barely appeared in public and when he has it has almost always been to respond to some demand that he make a statement. He did have a "minor stroke" in September but he was AWOL for much of the summer before and he has made perhaps half a dozen public statements since. I am wondering whether the parallels with the fin de regime collapse of his predecessor Mitterand are not equally tied to their respective (poor) health situations.
It is worth looking back to 2004 to see the difference. In 2004 Sarko was told that he had a choice between being a government minister or being head of the UMP (the political party of l'Escroc, Sarko etc. which rules France) and it was very clear that l'Escroc was determined to remove Sarko from a position where he could command an audience when he made a speech. Earlier this week Sarko made a speech in Nîmes which was hard-hitting, effective and televised. Had Sarko made such a speech in 2004 it seems certain that either it would have recived less coverage or that it would have been preceded by a presidential speech that would have tried to make Sarko look like he was just saying "moi aussi". It might not have worked completely but in the past l'Escroc was a good orator and political campaigner and he was very good at influencing the media and the pundits, so the impact of Sarko's speech would probably have been diminished.
Clearstream probably won't sink the government on its own, but if, for example, l'Escroc's Japanese banking rumours are substantiated it could well cause the total collapse of authority of the President and his Prime Mnister. It also certainly serves to make Sarko appear to be outside the ruling elite, despite his being UMP leader and interior minister, which will be key to his disassociating himself from the last couple of years of Chiracian drift. However Clearstream is moving in all sorts of strange directions - the latest being the claims that one of the judges negotiated some sort of a deal with former EADS head Gergorin about the anonymous submission of the fake documents at the heart of the Clearstream affair - so who knows what else may be discovered. Certainly Gergorin is closely tied to the Vile Pin/Escroc circle and seems to be implicated in the fakes but precisely how and why remains the topic of rumour rather than fact at present (the BBC news item is very coy indeed about the whole thing).
M. Rondot rapporte par écrit le 19 juillet 2004, selon le quotidien, ce propos de M. de Villepin: "Si nous apparaissons, le PR (président Jacques Chirac) et moi, nous sautons". (Loose translation: the newspaper reports that according to Rondot's notes Vile Pin said "If the president and I appear we're for the high jump")