Mr. Sarkozy gave his speech, a sober, wide-ranging address, in the first presidential appearance before Parliament since Charles Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte’s in the 19th century.
Presidents had been barred from entering Parliament since 1875, to protect the independence of lawmakers. But reforms carried out last summer through Mr. Sarkozy’s party opened the way for him to speak to Parliament.
Mr. Sarkozy entered through rows of French guards with raised swords, then delivered an American-style state-of-the-nation address that sketched out his view of France’s future.
Here’s the photo:
Sarko is setting French policy on a course; as you may remember this particular discussion on the burqa was ignited by Obama’s Cairo speech. Unlike Obama, however, Sarko is unequivocal:
Mr. Sarkozy said that “in the republic, the Muslim religion must be respected like other religions.” But he declared, “the burqa is not welcome in France.” He added, “We cannot accept in our country women imprisoned behind bars, cut off from social life, deprived of identity.”
You can watch the whole speech (in French) at the official Elysee website (right now it’s their featured video but once that changes, please search under Discours de M. le Président de la République devant le Parlement réuni en Congrès), but here is the part on the burqa (video in French):
As you can appreciate from his speech, Sarko has made a principled stand for democratic values and human rights.
His words were received with applause.
Joshua Muravchik, writing at Commentary, speculates on The Abandonment of Democracy, and quotes Obama’s speech at Strasbourg, France:
Obama seems to believe that democracy is overrated, or at least overvalued. When asked about the subject in his pre-inaugural interview with the Washington Post, Obama said that he is more concerned with “actually delivering a better life for people on the ground and less obsessed with form, more concerned with substance.” He elaborated on this thought during his April visit to Strasbourg, France:
We spend so much time talking about democracy—and obviously we should be promoting democracy everywhere we can. But democracy, a well-functioning society that promotes liberty and equality and fraternity, does not just depend on going to the ballot box. It also means that you’re not going to be shaken down by police because the police aren’t getting properly paid. It also means that if you want to start a business, you don’t have to pay a bribe. I mean, there are a whole host of other factors that people need . . . to recognize in building a civil society that allows a country to be successful.
Whether or not the President was aware of it, he was echoing a theme first propounded long ago by Soviet propagandists and later sung in many variations by all manner of Third World dictators, Left to Right. It has long since been discredited by a welter of research showing that democracies perform better in fostering economic and social well being, keeping the peace, and averting catastrophes. Never mind that it is untoward for a President of the United States to speak of democracy as a mere “form,” less important than substance.
I will post more on this article later, but for now, let’s ponder how a French president – instead of the American president – is the one taking a stand on democracy and human rights.
Previous posts on this thread:
Part 1: France: Obama’s Cairo speech provokes new debate on burqa
Part 2: Sarko says No to the burqa
Post re-edited to enter text that was omitted