Searching for De Gaulle

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Although in respect of the French election we’re already hung out our editorial saying “gone fishing,” we don’t mind tipping our hat to today’s column by Ross Douthat of the Times. He asks whether there is a case to be made for Marine Le Pen, and he does a fine job of it. For the most part it captures our own sentiments exactly. He calls Mme. Le Pen’s opponent, Emmanuel Macron, the “John Lindsay of the Eurocrats,” a wonderful bit of wordsmithing, even if the comparison is a little hard on our former mayor.

Certainly, the more Emmanuel Macron is exposed to the light of the hustings, the better Mme. Le Pen looks in comparison. “Some argue that Le Pen has simply replaced anti-Semitism with Islamophobia,” Mr. Douthat acknowledges. Yet he notes that her attacks on Islamic fundamentalism and her defense of public secularism “have been echoed by many mainstream French politicians,” such as President Sarkozy, France’s former leader, or François Fillon, its defeated, Jeb-Bush-like conservative.

Mr. Douthat reckons it’s not Mme. Le Pen’s father that Mme. Le Pen seeks to imitate but rather De Gaulle — who “fiercely opposed European political integration,” granted Algeria independence for fear of Muslim immigrants, and maintained a “France First” worldview that “gave other Western leaders fits.” Even Mme. Le Pen’s denial of widespread French complicity in the deportation of French Jews, he notes, was an “insistence that the true France existed with de Gaulle’s government-in-exile, not Pétain’s regime.”

So far, so good. But what a hash is made of the euro. Mr. Douthat acknowledges that “our era’s ‘enlightened’ governance has produced an out-of-touch eurozone elite lashed to a destructive common currency.” But, he reckons, “there is no American equivalent to the epic disaster of the euro.” Well, how about the dollar? Like the euro, it is a fiat currency with no legal connection to gold or other classical specie (the International Monetary Fund agreement prohibits its members form linking their currencies to gold).

The result is a dollar that has been every bit the disaster that the euro has been. Oh, we understand there are fluctuations between the European and American scrips. And that Germany is given dominance in the Eurozone that the Federal Reserve maintains over our own economy. Feature, though, any chart of the dollar and the euro against gold. The collapse of both of them in the past decade or so has been spectacular and broadly in parallel. They have recovered somewhat since mid-2011. But what a low plateau at which they have, at least for the moment, settled.

How DeGaulle got the monetary question. No leader in post-war history did to the same degree. How wonderful it would be were Mme. Le Pen — and Mr. Douthat — to follow in his footsteps. That is the demarche that would lift Mme. Le Pen onto a new plain worthy of the office once held by De Gaulle. The latest news, though, is a report in the London Times that Mme. Le Pen is backing away from her critique of the euro. The Times reports that this u-turn follows polls showing it was damaging her chances of victory. Why vote for her on Messr. Macron’s platform?

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