I generally agree with Art Goldhammer’s excellent analysis of whether there is a “new” Nicolas Sarkozy (as described in this sharply worded article in Le Monde) to go with the new name for his party. Speaking for myself only, the “new” Sarkozy reminds me of nothing so much as the “new” Nixon; it’s the same sour wine in a new bottle.
But I would like to say a few words about the ostensible conversion of Sarko l’Américain to the cause of secularism. His words are good, but even if one credits his good faith, I suspect that Sarkozy and I don’t ascribe remotely the same meaning to them. Frankly, I can’t tell whether he’s talking about the 1905 law as secularists like me understand it or whether he’s just using laïcisme as an anti Muslim dog whistle.
As Goldhammer points out, Sarkozy would seem to have undergone a radical change in his thinking:
Remember Sarko l’Américain? Now he is as franchouillard as can be. Gone is the Sarko who thought that the republican schoolteacher needed to have a priest at his side to inculcate moral values. Gone is the Sarko who stood at the Pope’s side (texting, to be sure, on his cell phone).
It’s such a remarkable about face that he’s either had an epiphany on the road back to the Elysée Palace or he’s simply playing a joke on everybody. Personally, I think Sarkozy’s failure to specifically address the historically overbearing role of the Church in France as, shall we say, the impetus for the 1905 law and the way in which his own beliefs have evolved casts considerable doubt on the sincerity of his new found love of secularism and the revolution is the big tip-off to his lack of sincerity. I think he’s just making a transparently insincere attempt to find new allies in his fight against the Muslims.