The distinguished President of France, perhaps irked by his country’s inability to show well in the tsunami relief effort, has decided to make his own headlines. And the script could have come out of euro-socialist central casting, with a “logic” that is uniquely French:
"I propose the creation of a humanitarian rapid reaction force, within the framework of the United Nations," he declared Thursday.
Apparently the U.N. aid agencies don’t do emergencies, so Chirac wants to round out their job description. And this “force” will need to be funded. And that requires creativity given France’s 35 hour-work-week-challenged GDP:
"These events stress the need to find innovative financing mechanisms such as an international taxation."
With the Oil for Food trough running dry, alternative sources of revenue will have to be secured. And France would be the natural administrators of that global extortion, er, tax. And Jacques offered up continued support for Kofi Annan, calling him a
"man of peace, of conviction, of courage and of integrity."
Of course no President of France would be caught in front of the press without announcing another Great Leap Forward:
he has proposed no less than a new "agency of industrial innovation" that will promote the "national champions" of tomorrow.
He’s going to need that innovation, because the economic picture isn’t rosy:
Final revisions to the data show that real gross domestic product did not grow at all in the third quarter. Consumer spending fell even more than first estimated.Growth probably was weak in the fourth quarter, meaning the economy grew less than 2% for all of 2004. The slowdown is hitting the job markets. November's jobless rate stayed at a high 9.9%, above the 8.9% rate for the total euro zone. With work prospects dismal, confidence was weak at yearend.
Given this performance, and these tired proposals, there’s only one thing that Chirac can do. Run for re-election.
But as political observers here like to point out, as long as he stays in office Chirac is immune from attempts by judges to investigate his role in a party financing scandal at the Paris City Hall when he was mayor in the late 1980s and the early 1990s.
Jacques, where have you been, we missed you.