Jacques Chirac was France’s favorite everyman politician. But if the former president, who passed away Thursday at age 86, has entered the pantheon of France’s most popular leaders, it’s in large part in spite of his political defeats and failures, not in celebration of his successes.The former president, an old-style provincial French politician with a common touch who loved shaking hands on markets, was easy to love.He knew every voter and local official by name, adored agriculture and was happiest slapping cows on their backside. At country fairs or the annual Paris Agricultural Show, he ate and drank with the best of them. He was also instrumental in preserving the European Union’s Common Agricultural Policy and ensuring that the EU budget was not redirected to what many saw as more effective uses such as science and innovation. He also tried to negotiate with Bill Clinton a return to NATO’s military command in 1997 but bid too high and lost the battle to get the allied southern command in NATO, so France stayed out. After that, he was overheard telling visitors to the Elysée Palace to “never trust the Americans.”Chirac in 1995 following his electoral victory | Pierre Boussel/AFP via Getty ImagesHis track record in Europe is checkered too. While he eventually came around to adopting the euro, which many Gaullists opposed, he was always reluctant about the eastward enlargement of the European Union to the ex-communist countries of Central Europe, which he rightly sensed would diminish French influence in Brussels. When those countries issued a statement of support for Bush’s Iraq policy in 2003, Chirac famously declared that they had “missed a good opportunity to shut up.”Resentment of France in Central Europe remains strong to this day, and politicians frequently quote that Chirac comment as the symbol of French arrogance toward them.The culmination of the plunge in France’s international standing came soon after, with the loss of a referendum on the EU constitution in 2005. The results threw the EU into a state of paralysis that mirrored France’s own stasis. Chirac admitted during the campaign that he didn’t understand young voters. After a minor stroke, his age began to show, and he soon faced an internal revolt by an impatient Nicolas Sarkozy, who couldn’t wait to take his place.Chirac gestures during a press conference in 2005 | Patrick Kovarik/AFP via Getty ImagesAlthough the end of his career came quickly, Chirac would remain an omnipresence in French politics. He continued to bear political grudges in his dotage, endorsing Socialist François Hollande, who like himself had built his political base in the rural Correze region of southwestern France, to help sabotage Sarkozy’s reelection in 2012.He also made headlines again after he left office when he was belatedly convicted for using fake City of Paris jobs to pay his party officials, which he never appealed. And yet, despite his many failures and miscalculations — and his legal troubles — Chirac was regularly voted the most popular political figure in France, long after he had left public life. He may not have have achieved much, but at least “il aimait les français.”He loved the French people. And, for many, that will be what defines him.Paul Taylor, a contributing editor at POLITICO, writes the Europe At Large column. Also On POLITICO In a Trump world, diplomacy is being conducted in French (again) By Rym Momtaz Opinion Jacques Chirac: Mourn the man, not his politics By John Lichfield Jacques Chirac’s slice of soul and other memorable campaign songs By Paul Dallison As president, Chirac would become a lovable failure and preside over a reformless decade of decline. Soon after his election, a general strike defeated his attempt to implement a big bang of reform pensions and health care in his first 100 days. From that defeat in December 1995, he seemed to draw the lesson that France was unreformable and there was only trouble to be had by trying.Chirac at the Champs-Elysées in 1995 | Eric Feferberg/AFP via Getty ImagesTwo years later, he miscalculated catastrophically again, calling an unnecessary early parliamentary election in which he lost his majority and was forced to share power with a Socialist government led by Lionel Jospin — a recipe for in-fighting and paralysis. The Socialists pushed through the 35-hour work week, further eroding France’s competitiveness, which Chirac opposed but no subsequent conservative president has dared abolish.Chirac’s behavior on the international stage was also marked by mistakes. Although he loved to grandstand in the Gaullist tradition, here too he frequently miscalculated and left France weaker.His most memorable grand gesture was his refusal, in 2003, to join then U.S. President George W. Bush in an invasion of Iraq. Given the prolonged chaos the war inflicted on the Middle East, Chirac’s decision — for which many in France and beyond will continue to consider him a hero — was, for once, clairvoyant.But it also caused the biggest crisis in transatlantic relations since De Gaulle quit NATO’s military wing in 1966 and expelled the alliance’s headquarters from France. “French fries” were rebranded “freedom fries” by angry Americans, and the “Simpsons” TV series dubbed the French “cheese-eating surrender monkeys.”Mostly, his diplomatic efforts were marked by errors and miscalculations. In 1995, he ordered a resumption of underground nuclear warhead testing in the South Pacific to flex Gaullist muscles, triggering a worldwide storm of protest. France’s key relationship with Germany deteriorated after he abolished conscription without bothering to inform Chancellor Helmut Kohl and resisted giving Germany increased voting power in the EU after reunification increased its population. Above all, he was a political chameleon and wasn’t afraid of elbowing others out of the way. He started his meteoric political career as a dashing young junior labor minister under Charles de Gaulle, negotiating at a secret meeting with the head of the communist trade union to end the general strike in May 1968. He went on to become an inveterate conspirator who stabbed successive political allies in the back.First, he sabotaged Jacques Chaban-Delmas’ presidential campaign in 1974. He was rewarded by being made prime minister but walked out on liberal President Valery Giscard d’Estaing in 1976, refounded a rival Gaullist movement, ran for mayor of Paris and used the position to wage a guerrilla war against Giscard. In the first direct election to the European Parliament in 1979, he accused a “foreign party” (Giscard’s UDF) of selling out French interests to what was then the European Community.As president, Chirac would become a lovable failure and preside over a reformless decade of decline.To sabotage Giscard’s reelection, he secretly helped the Socialist François Mitterrand win the presidency in 1981 by quietly pushing grassroots Gaullists to abstain or vote for Mitterrand. When he returned as prime minister of a cohabitation government after the right won parliamentary elections in 1986, he was comprehensively outfoxed by the wily Mitterrand, who was reelected with a bigger majority two years later.On policy, Chirac kept changing his spots. He wanted to be a privatizing French Thatcher in the 1980s, then a caring social conservative in the 1990s, then briefly an economic liberalizer, and finally a do-nothing defender of the statist French economic and social model.He had to fight his own Gaullist protegé, Edouard Balladur, whom he had installed as prime minister under Mitterrand in 1993, in the 1995 presidential election. He beat the staid conservative grandee by promising to heal France’s “social fracture.” But as he jokingly said himself: “My promises only bind those who believe them.”
Vitor Boccardo (jimhoguephotos.com) Share Argos Gear Up For Tough Week PENSACOLA, Fla. — The University of West Florida men’s basketball team will be tested this week as they will take on four quality opponents over a five day span. Tuesday evening the Argos will host visiting NAIA Temple Baptist in their final home game before the New Year. The Argos will then hit the road on Thursday as they will square off with the University of Tampa before traveling to Melbourne to compete in the Florida Tech Christmas Classic over the weekend.After dropping their first two road games of the season last weekend in Montevallo, the Argos look to rebound and have another strong outing against Tampa. In the teams’ first matchup, the Argos took down a then undefeated Spartan squad 67-54. Since the loss the Spartans’ have gone 2-1 while averaging 80 points a contest.At the Florida Tech Christmas Classic on Friday, the Argos will take on Central State at 5:30pm ET. The Marauders enter the week at 6-4 and boast four players averaging in double digits. In just 10 total games for the Marauders, five have been decided in overtime with them winning two of the five. They are led by Robert Harris who is averaging 14.7 PPG and Reginald Harwell who averages 7.5 rebounds per game this season.On Saturday afternoon the Argos will square off with the 2-6 Shaw University Bears at 2:30pm ET in their final game at the Florida Tech Christmas Classic. The Bears, who have struggled as of late, picked up wins against Livingstone and the University of the District of Columbia in late November before dropping their last three games.The Argos offense enters the week averaging 67 points contest and is led by Darryl McGhee and Charles Bouie who are putting up just over 10 points a game. With the tough schedule slate for this week, the defense, which is holding opponents under 60 points a game, will play a vital role in their success this week.For more information on Argonaut athletics or to follow along with live stats, fans can keep up with the action at www.GoArgos.com. Print Friendly Version
Texas A&M’s rivalry game against No. 8 LSU was one for the ages as the Aggies found a way to top the Tigers in the highest scoring game in FBS history. Both teams put up some crazy stats because the game lasted as long as it did. LSU finished with 521 total yards, while A&M finished with 496. Joe Burrow had 270 yards and three touchdowns (not including three rushing), while Kellen Mond had six passing touchdowns and one rushing.But the even crazier facts come with how historic the game was. Here are six crazy facts from the Aggies thrilling victory: The seven-overtime game tied the NCAA record for most overtimes in an FBS game. But It was the first game with as many overtimes that included a ranked team.The 146 combined points are the most in an FBS game in NCAA history and the second-most in college football history behind the 161 points Abilene Christian and West Texas A&M scored in Abilene Christian’s 93-68 win in 2008, according to ESPN. The previous record of 139 points was set in Western Michigan’s 71-68 win against Buffalo a year ago, also in overtime.The 74 points LSU allowed are the most ever given up by a ranked team, eclipsing the 73 No. 24 Fresno State gave up to Northern Illinois on Oct. 6, 1990. It was the first game in the AP poll era in which both teams scored 70 points, according to ESPN Stats & Information. The Aggie’s 24 points are more points than Texas A&M’s basketball team has scored in 4 of 6 games this season.The Tigers had scored a combined 79 points in their previous four SEC games. The Aggies won 74-72 after seven overtimes in a hard fought battle and it was certainly heartbreaker for LSU as there was some controversy down the stretch.