Patrice Higonnet

Did France need François Mitterrand? I hope not: the man was so vain, so shallow, so duplicitous, so amoral. It wasn’t just that you couldn’t believe anything he said: you couldn’t even consistently believe its opposite. In fact, you couldn’t listen to him without feeling you had somehow been deceived. When this deeply cynical politician placed his hand on his heart, spoke about the poor, reminded you that he had never been interested in money, even as a child, and smiled through his bloodless lips, then you could be pretty sure he was lying. But it was not always so: Mitterrand wasn’t bad through and through. You couldn’t just turn your back on this fake leftist and vote for the Right with a happy heart. At times, to complicate matters hopelessly, he was quite sincere. He wasn’t devious for the sake of deviousness. Nor did he simply find goodness less interesting than malice. He misled others – Rocard, the Communists, the Socialists; and in his youth, Fascists, Pétainists and Gaullists – ceaselessly but mostly he did it in order to achieve some goal. To be sure, the goal was usually an enhancement of his own power and prestige. For example, when he went to Sarajevo he thoroughly bamboozled French humanitarian workers, not to speak of the Bosnians and the world: they really did think he would help them.

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