Just How Monarchical is Monsieur Mitterrand?

Letter From Paris

Ever since Machiavelli, and probably long before that, successful statesmen have known that a plentiful stock of mendacity, as well as guile, are essential for anyone wishing to get ahead in politics. But what many of them may have forgotten during their arduous climb to the summit is that the often bitter accusations they level against their adversaries during the years of ascent can later be turned around and used against themselves when at last they have reached the top.

Francois Mitterrand's spectacular career offers a classic illustration of this phenomenon. A quarter of a century ago, in 1964, when he was already posing as a "leftist" candidate against the "usurper" de Gaulle (so termed because he had connived in a military putsch before burying the Fourth and creating the Fifth Republic), he attacked the General's mode of government in a book entitled Le Coup d'etat permanent. Today he would prefer to forget that he had ever written that blistering critique of autocratic government, for there was hardly a charge he then made against de Gaulle that could not be made against the present French president's often peremptory modus gubernandi.

Last November the Paris weekly Le Point published a cover story entitled "Mitterrand—Le Roi et sa Cour" in which His would-be Majesty, dressed in a 17th-century perruque, matched by regal cane,...

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