Croker Sack

"Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard." — Henry Louis Mencken (1880-1956)

Friday, November 19, 2004

Mitterand's dodge

Some words are difficult to translate. For example, le truc was translated by The Times as "the thingy" in an article describing some of the shady dealings connected with the reign of the late Francois Mitterand (1916-1996).

Since le truc was apparently used to describe a secret group of agents working outside the law on behalf of Mitterand when he was the French president, a better translation may be "dodge"--defined in Webster's New World College Dictionary (4th Ed.) as "2 a trick used in evading or cheating 3 a clever or resourceful device, plan, etc."

Interestingly, The Times used the occasion of these revelations about Mitterand's corrupt behavior to point out that French President Chirac may be tempted by the power of the executive to have le truc of his own:
The Times, November 20, 2004
How Mitterrand’s secret network spied to protect the President
Trial lays bare the abuse of power employed by a man who trusted no one

TALL, handsome and soldierly, Christian Prouteau looked two decades younger than his 60 years as he stood in a Paris court and lectured the judge on the realities of French presidential power. “You don’t know the theory of le truc — ‘the thingy’. When there is a problem, you have to have a thingy. I was the thingy.”

The former Gendarmerie colonel began to lift the veil this week on the cell of military officers, spies and state officials who served the late President Mitterrand as his weapons against enemies.

+ + +

Much has been reformed since the murky final years of Mitterrand’s 14-year reign, with its mysterious suicides and financial scandals. However, for critics of the monarchical Fifth Republic, the near-absolute power of the presidency is still fertile ground for abuse, intrigue and shady practice. Only executive immunity and Gallic tolerance for sleaze has shielded President Chirac, who succeeded Mitterrand in 1995, from questions about his alleged financial abuses. [Emphasis added.]

+ + +

The trial has exposed the odd way in which the presidency is financed by other organs of state. “Its money escapes the auditors a little like the royal purse did,” said M Ménage, who was Mitterrand’s deputy chief of staff. Judge Kross voiced amazement that all staff at the Élysée had “fictional jobs”.

The still-unchecked funding of the presidency made headlines again yesterday when members of parliament challenged a sixfold rise in its costs in M Chirac’s nine-year tenure. “This uncontrolled spending is a hangover from the French monarchy,” a Socialist MP said.

There may be good reason for the general absence of surprise about the suspected involvement of close associates of Chirac in the corrupt UN "Oil for Food" program. Such dodges seem to be an integral part of the French society.


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