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Author Topic: American counterparts of French Presidents  (Read 1420 times)
Antonio V
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« on: February 05, 2012, 08:48:35 am »
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A couple days ago I came to think about Presidents of the 5th French Republic, and tried to figure out which American Presidents each of them was most like. I thought it would be a fun topic to discuss with people familiar with French politics.

Here are my few thoughts. I tried to value personality, campaigning styles and methods of governing above political positionings (because the two countries are too different on political issues for a comparison to be made anyways).

De Gaulle : Einsenhower is the first to come to mind, for obvious reasons. But I eventually settled on Theodore Roosevelt. Both were very charismatic and had a pretty "personal" relationship with their supporters and were mistrusted by the establishment. Both were hardcore patriots. Also, both belonged to the right of the political spectrum, yet were strongly Statist and clashed with big business.

Pompidou : A hard one. Several Presidents would at least partly fit (most of the the late XIXth-early XXth centuries Republicans, in particular : low-key, consensual and moderately conservative). I think I'd eventually settle on William H. Taft, but that's only a personal feeling I can't really back.

Giscard d'Estaing : I'd say Jimmy Carter. A maverick inside his political faction, initially little known by voter, who eventually comes to win the election exploiting the people's aspiration to change and renewal. Tried (and somewhat managed) to reform political practices, but a combination of tactical mistakes, weak will and bad luck resulted in his presidency being eventually considered as a failure. Lost re-election.

Mitterrand : This may surprise some, but I go with Richard Nixon. A skilled and petty politician with changing political convictions (to say least). He managed to make people forget about his very controversial past and totally re-branded himslelf in order to get elected. Once in office, proved to be a competent statesman on both foreign and domestic policies. Gets easily reelected as the "consensus candidate" against an opponent perceived as extremist (he had worked to make sure the extremist guy -Chirac/McGovern- became his opponent, rather than a more moderate option -Barre/Muskie). However, he also made himself guilty of multiple abuses of power and dirty tactics, which tarnished the end of his presidency. Nowadays, his record is viewed positively.

Chirac : Not an easy one, but I came with Warren Harding. Corrupt and do-nothing. Nobody (will) remember(s) him 10 years after the end of his presidency.

Sarkozy : Now that's hard. No American President perfectly fits all his main characteristics. My personal feeling would, however, be Andrew Jackson : Campaigned as a representative of the "people", pledging to modernize politics, making them closer to the people and bashing old-style elitist politicians. For this reason, he was from the beginning a very controversial politician, and the controversy grew even more when he became President. With his uncompromising style and his "either with me or against me" mentality, he loathed and was loathed by his opposition. Obsessed with putting every branch of the government under his control, through partisan appointments in particular. Also, didn't hesitate to treat certain categories of people in an inhumane way, for mere political gain.
« Last Edit: February 05, 2012, 08:55:28 am by Antonio V »Logged

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« Reply #1 on: February 05, 2012, 11:12:19 am »
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Give us Paul Deschanel!
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« Reply #2 on: February 05, 2012, 11:15:14 am »
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Roosevelt was in no way on the right of the political spectrum.
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« Reply #3 on: February 05, 2012, 11:25:01 am »
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Roosevelt was in no way on the right of the political spectrum.

Depends. On one hand, he supported wealth re-distribution, conservation, and reform. On the other hand, part of him was very aristocratic, his love for Al Hamilton coudl only be matched by his hate for Tommy Jefferson, he was very nationalistic, held quite conservative and prudish social views, loved the idea of the self-made man, and viewed slaughter of the American Indian as necessary for America's eventual rise to greatness (though he was not sympathetic with that, only viewed it as fact. He believed that there was also a follow up to that, in which the native should be encouraged and allowed to participate in new society and should have every opportunity that the average citizen have.). I'm currently reading "The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt".
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Abdul the Reformer
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« Reply #4 on: February 05, 2012, 11:51:18 am »
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Roosevelt was in no way on the right of the political spectrum.

You know, de Gaulle was very annoyed when someone tried to classify him as either right- or left-wing. As well as he rejected such classification of gaullism.

While it's true gaullist movement (and by gaullism movement I mean political parties, starting with RPF) had many right-wingers, and with Pompidou succession it became genuinely centre-right force, there was a significant number of left-wingers around de Gaulle. Just to name Andre Marlaux, Rene Capitant and, by some measure, Jacques Chaban-Delmas. Even pre-Algerie francaise Soustelle.
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Antonio V
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« Reply #5 on: February 05, 2012, 11:58:41 am »
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Give us Paul Deschanel!

It's really impossible to compare 3rd/4th Republic Presidents with American ones, considering how different their functions are. However, if we have to look for a pathetic failure as pathetic as Deschanel (in the fashion "what the f**k is he doing ?!?"), only John Tyler comes to my mind.


Roosevelt was in no way on the right of the political spectrum.

Depends. On one hand, he supported wealth re-distribution, conservation, and reform. On the other hand, part of him was very aristocratic, his love for Al Hamilton coudl only be matched by his hate for Tommy Jefferson, he was very nationalistic, held quite conservative and prudish social views, loved the idea of the self-made man, and viewed slaughter of the American Indian as necessary for America's eventual rise to greatness (though he was not sympathetic with that, only viewed it as fact. He believed that there was also a follow up to that, in which the native should be encouraged and allowed to participate in new society and should have every opportunity that the average citizen have.). I'm currently reading "The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt".

It's complicated indeed. I didn't mean to say Roosevelt was right-wing (though it isn't easy to classify him as "left-wing" either), but mainly that he stood inside a party which was mostly conservative. Similarly, De Gaulle didn't perfectly fit in the French right and was a kind of original figure in the French landscape (even though he leaned to the right).
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« Reply #6 on: February 05, 2012, 02:23:58 pm »
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Because of his historical role as well as his "idea of France", de Gaulle was a political exception. He did not believe in political ideologies, as we use to define. You may call him a nationalist, but not in any negative meaning of this term. He displayed some right-wing elements, as well as some left-wing elements. He was, personally, a traditionalist and "sentimental monarchist", but firmly stand on a republican and democratic ground and, according to all accounts, he was also a very open-minded and tolerant individual.

"Gaullism", under the general, was an absolute commitment to France and her grandeur. So you may try to define it as believing in a public service and putting it above everything.

...also, give us Paul Deschanel, damn it!
« Last Edit: February 05, 2012, 02:26:11 pm by The Count »Logged

Antonio V
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« Reply #7 on: February 05, 2012, 03:56:10 pm »
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Give us Paul Deschanel!

It's really impossible to compare 3rd/4th Republic Presidents with American ones, considering how different their functions are. However, if we have to look for a pathetic failure as pathetic as Deschanel (in the fashion "what the f**k is he doing ?!?"), only John Tyler comes to my mind.

I can't do better than that, sorry.

No alternative proposals ?
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« Reply #8 on: February 05, 2012, 03:58:33 pm »
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Give us Paul Deschanel!

It's really impossible to compare 3rd/4th Republic Presidents with American ones, considering how different their functions are. However, if we have to look for a pathetic failure as pathetic as Deschanel (in the fashion "what the f**k is he doing ?!?"), only John Tyler comes to my mind.

I can't do better than that, sorry.

No alternative proposals ?

Oh, I missed that, sorry.
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Abdul the Reformer
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« Reply #9 on: February 06, 2012, 02:32:20 pm »
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Anyway, I generally agree with Antonio's analysis.

As of Giscard, it's funny, since, unlike "Jimmy Who", he was literally born into a political establishment, but indeed became President as an underdog. He was merely a leader of a junior coalition party and I doubt he'd win without pompidouist deserting Chaban. And, true, he lacked a firm political base.
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« Reply #10 on: February 06, 2012, 05:45:34 pm »
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Your description of Sarkozy makes him sound very much like Nixon.

No American President has been what De Gaulle was, of course. Perhaps combine Eisenhower and FDR and you get something like him.
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« Reply #11 on: February 06, 2012, 06:33:05 pm »
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Your description of Sarkozy makes him sound very much like Nixon.

Oh come on now, Xahar. After all, Nixon was actually an accomplished man.
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Antonio V
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« Reply #12 on: February 07, 2012, 02:38:45 am »
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Was Nixon really hated by congressional democrats before the Watergate ? Hell, he basically governed like a democrat, on domestic issues at least.
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« Reply #13 on: February 08, 2012, 11:21:32 pm »
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Was Nixon really hated by congressional democrats before the Watergate ? Hell, he basically governed like a democrat, on domestic issues at least.

That's not really true, despite the perception. He didn't win the whole South by adopting the principles of Hubert Humphrey's Democratic Party.
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Antonio V
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« Reply #14 on: February 09, 2012, 04:29:54 am »
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Was Nixon really hated by congressional democrats before the Watergate ? Hell, he basically governed like a democrat, on domestic issues at least.

That's not really true, despite the perception. He didn't win the whole South by adopting the principles of Hubert Humphrey's Democratic Party.

Well, I think most of this can be explained by who his opponent was and by his rhetoric. Of course Nixon wasn't as left-wing as Humphrey but it seems to me that some of his policies (minimum wage, developing Affirmative Action, trying to pass a public health care) were pretty close to a left-wing platform, even for that time.
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« Reply #15 on: February 09, 2012, 02:34:22 pm »
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Who's Francois Hollande's counterpart?
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Abdul the Reformer
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« Reply #16 on: February 09, 2012, 03:09:07 pm »
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Was Nixon really hated by congressional democrats before the Watergate ? Hell, he basically governed like a democrat, on domestic issues at least.

That's not really true, despite the perception. He didn't win the whole South by adopting the principles of Hubert Humphrey's Democratic Party.

Well, I think most of this can be explained by who his opponent was and by his rhetoric. Of course Nixon wasn't as left-wing as Humphrey but it seems to me that some of his policies (minimum wage, developing Affirmative Action, trying to pass a public health care) were pretty close to a left-wing platform, even for that time.

At the same time, Nixon administration opposed busing and he appointed conservative justices, which was pretty appealing to the South. Not to mention his ideological policy ("silent majority").

Nixon liked to think of himself as a modern Disraeli: the one who maintains conservative rethorics and basic principles, while being able, unlike an official left, to pass modern initiatives.
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Abdul the Reformer
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« Reply #17 on: February 09, 2012, 03:15:56 pm »
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Who's Francois Hollande's counterpart?

Ah, if we're talking about American counterparts to other French politicians...

EXCESSIVE HYPERBOLE ALERT



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And...



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Antonio V
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« Reply #18 on: February 09, 2012, 04:10:55 pm »
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Who's Francois Hollande's counterpart?

Sorry, while I am obviously prone to accept the argument that Hollande is "already elected" (Wink), I can't find a counterpart without having an actual record to judge.

@Kal : Palin as Royal is pretty obvious, yeah. As for Bayrou as Bayh, it's a bit more tricky. Bayh is the prototype of a moderate hero, while Bayrou, despite having some moderate hero aspects (like the "people should be less partisan" rhetoric), has also more quixotic elements (like his tendency to pick up random ideas which have nothing to do with his political sensibility, if he thinks this will make him gain a couple votes).
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« Reply #19 on: July 28, 2012, 06:32:58 pm »
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Hmm...I'd actually say Mitterand could be quite similar to Teddy.  A total raving nationalist with leanings which would be considered fascist (Mitterand knew and approved of the torture and executions in Algeria, for example).  Yet they both were at least left-of-center economically, and, arguably, that's why they were both popular (at certain points).  Also, the views (economically) of both evolved quite a bit while they were in office, even if in opposite directions. 
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« Reply #20 on: July 28, 2012, 07:12:03 pm »
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Mitt'rrand was a swindling and a crook, but he wasn't a fascist and I doubt he was nationalist. In fact, it is doubtful whether Mitt'rrand ever had political views beyond vaguely leftie socialist wishy-washy electoralist bullsh**t (changer la vie).
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Antonio V
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« Reply #21 on: July 29, 2012, 04:29:54 am »
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Yeah, what Hash said. Mitterrand's degree of nationalism is indistinguishable from that of other politicians of the time (and in office, his foreign policy was significantly more pro-American or pro-European than De Gaulle's).
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« Reply #22 on: August 02, 2012, 05:40:35 pm »
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Yeah, what Hash said. Mitterrand's degree of nationalism is indistinguishable from that of other politicians of the time (and in office, his foreign policy was significantly more pro-American or pro-European than De Gaulle's).
At least in his earlier days.  He frankly belonged in the ICC.  He authorized and approved of torture and murder in Algeria before he was President and should have been locked away for the rest of his life.  Or would anyone have done that at the time? 
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Antonio V
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« Reply #23 on: August 03, 2012, 08:03:00 am »
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Yeah, what Hash said. Mitterrand's degree of nationalism is indistinguishable from that of other politicians of the time (and in office, his foreign policy was significantly more pro-American or pro-European than De Gaulle's).
At least in his earlier days.  He frankly belonged in the ICC.  He authorized and approved of torture and murder in Algeria before he was President and should have been locked away for the rest of his life.  Or would anyone have done that at the time? 

Indeed. The political consensus about how to deal with "Algerian events" was near-unanimous until roughly the turn of the decade. Mitterrand is far from being the only one to have blood on his hands (which doesn't make him any less despicable, of course).
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