Macron and the Piranhas
Ever since Alexandre Benalla, a now-former security aide to French President Emmanuel Macron, was caught on video beating up demonstrators on May 1, France's populists have been leading a political feeding frenzy. By focusing on Benalla, they hope to bring down another of Europe's few remaining liberal leaders.
PARIS – The faults of Alexandre Benalla, a former top security aide to French President Emmanuel Macron who was caught on video beating up a demonstrator on May 1, are inexcusable. And it is well understood that Macron committed several errors of judgment by trusting for too long a young, inexperienced, showy bruiser who imagined himself to be a cop or a hooligan. Credit is owed to the journalists who compelled the Elysée Palace to end two and a half months of culpable silence and cut ties with Benalla.
But beyond this scandal lies a more chilling sequence of events. Paralyzed by Macron’s steady drumbeat of important reforms, his opponents found in the Benalla scandal, at long last, a good fight to fight. But no one should revel in the fact that it was far-right leader Marine Le Pen and far-left leader Jean-Luc Mélénchon who led the attacks on Macron for his silence about his thuggish aide. There was something deeply hypocritical in the spectacle of these old warhorses, who rely so often on their own redneck guerrillas, defending the police against the “militias.”
Who are Le Pen and Mélénchon trying to kid in feigning concern for public civility when they only fan resentment and hostility? In an article published last Sunday in the French weekly Le Journal du Dimanche, officials in Mélénchon’s party, La France Insoumise (France Unbowed), smugly and cynically discuss plans to “raise the tone,” “hit” rival X or Y, “obtain” top-secret information on “article 40 of the code of criminal procedure,” and render the crisis sufficiently “important” to “damage the president.”