Wednesday, November 21, 2007
It's not getting much notice in the American press, but former President Jacques Chirac was placed under formal investigation today by a magistrate investigating a corruption scandal that took place while Chirac was both Mayor of Paris and head of the RPR political party. That's one step short of an indictment in the French criminal justice system. One of his longtime political allies, Alain Juppé, was already convicted three years ago for his role in the scheme, which basically used phony jobs on the City Hall payroll to pay RPR employees for their political work. (No accusations of personal enrichment have ever been associated with the scandal.) Common wisdom had it at the time that Juppe was taking the fall for Chirac, who wrapped himself in Presidential immunity to postpone facing any charges while he himself was still in office.
I'm not sure what it is about ex-presidents, but they seem to have a way of becoming instantly more sympathetic to me pretty much as soon as they're out of office. I remember fighting off the wave of revisionist sentimentality that followed Nixon's death, and I'm a sucker for this type of thing. I admit that as much as I despised Ronald Reagan while he was President, I find it hard not to admire what he did restore to America, which in retrospect was, I think, a sense that we'd make it through the rough spots.
So needless to say, I don't see the point in going after a 75 year-old man who's spent his entire life in government and who once "incarnated France", as the presidential oath here puts it. True, democracy means no one being above the law. But I think the punishment should be the humiliation and disgrace of being impeached from office, which is a mechanism that didn't exist here until Chirac amended the constitution to include one just months before leaving office. I don't see who benefits, though, by throwing "France" in jail.