France’s Marine Le Pen’s Tea Party Embrace a Percolating Issue on the U.S. Right
The presidential candidate admires Vladimir Putin, invokes the spirit of the Occupy Wall Street movement, and speaks of a vision of the “ecological and environmental dimension, specifically seeking to counter all dumping and to make our planet advance towards greater well-being.”
Almost incredibly, the U.S. Tea Party movement and many other conservatives have increasingly identified with the same candidate: Marine Le Pen, nominee of the National Front Party for president of France in elections next April. In large part because of her hard-line position on immigration and opposition to some international organizations such as the European Union and NATO, the 43-year-old Ms. Le Pen has been watched and even applauded by a number of Americans on the Right. Prior to an appearance at the National Press Club in Washington D.C., on Wednesday, the controversial candidate had meetings with Rep. and presidential hopeful Ron Paul (R.-Tex.) and freshman Rep. Joe Walsh (R.-Ill.), the first Tea Party candidate to be nominated for Congress in 2010.
Like the candidate herself, her appearance before an overflow crowd at the Press Club was lively and confrontational. Speaking through an interpreter, she referred to members of the French press who had followed her during a day in Washington—notably correspondent Lorraine Millot of the left-of-center Liberation publication—and said she had experienced the “high pressure of the French media” and “didn’t need to be chased.”
Asked whether she had expressed admiration for Russia’s strongman Prime Minister Putin, Le Pen said, “I admire the way he made the oligarchs stop trying to sell their country in pieces”—a reference to the Putin-orchestrated arrests and trials of billionaire businessmen in Russia. She also called for greater “discussions and exchanges” with Putin and Russian President Dimitri Medvedev (whom Putin is sure to replace in elections next year) and that other nations dealing with Russia must “forget the past” and be “helping them.”
While not offering any criticism of Putin’s heavy-handed rule or his stage-managed succession to Medvedev, Le Pen denounced the European Union as non-democratic, and noted that “its people were mad at [Greek Prime Minister Georgios] Papandreau for organizing a referendum” on EU-crafted economic reforms for Greece. This is tantamount, she added, to a “Sovietic Union of Europe.”
Having long called for France to “get out of NATO,” the presidential hopeful denounced the international defense organization for its recent mission in Libya. In Le Pen’s words, what is unfolding in the “so-called Arab Spring” is “worse than what was existing” because “Sharia law is the future of Tunisia and Libya,” and Egypt is experiencing a “vision of Islamization.”
Reviving Keynes’ Havana Charter
But the same candidate who wants France out of NATO and the EU made it clear she is not critical of all international organizations, and agreements. Le Pen wants to apply America’s Glass-Steagall Act of 1933, which legally separated investment banking and commercial banking (and was repealed in 1999), to “the banking system of each country,” and supports revival of the Havana Charter, a trade agreement that would have established an international currency and that was rejected by the U.S. in 1951.
Le Pen’s mention of the 60-year-old Havana Charter, initially proposed by economist John Maynard Keynes, surprised reporters covering her from both France and the U.S. Although Le Pen considers the Euro “an idiotic currency,” she apparently has no problem with an international currency, because the Havana Charter proposed such a currency, known as the “bancor.” She also praised the charter (which 53 countries signed, but which failed because the U.S. would not sign it) for its “reasonable protectionism that encourages cooperation in trade among nations in order to bring an end to ‘unbridled free trade.’”
In reply to a question from HUMAN EVENTS as to whether she is a true small-government conservative, and whether she would make the cuts in government that French President Nicolas Sarkozy promised in his ’07 campaign and in his book Testimony, Le Pen agreed that the state “is too centralized.” However, the only cuts she specifically embraced were “cuts in immigration” that she predicted would save “$70 billion in the future” because “welfare is very generous [in France].”
Marine Le Pen likened her candidacy in France to the American Tea Party, saying both were “spontaneous” and had “some common points.” Whether the agenda she spelled out in Washington has “some common points” with the Tea Party is a question that Tea Partiers and American conservatives should seriously explore before embracing the lady from France.