Notes from Paris
So, what dirt was able to be gleamed from my trip to Paris? Here’s the tidbits about the people, the place, and the ideas that are worth divilging: 1) I love it when stereotypes don’t hold up. There was a moment in the second day when Ambassador Francois Bujon De L’Estaing sneeringly mocked Lawrence Kaplan’s ...
So, what dirt was able to be gleamed from my trip to Paris? Here's the tidbits about the people, the place, and the ideas that are worth divilging:
So, what dirt was able to be gleamed from my trip to Paris? Here’s the tidbits about the people, the place, and the ideas that are worth divilging:
1) I love it when stereotypes don’t hold up. There was a moment in the second day when Ambassador Francois Bujon De L’Estaing sneeringly mocked Lawrence Kaplan’s presentation about the European Union as the embodiment of the neoconservative stereotype — after which Kaplan jibed back about the Ambassador also fulfilling his stereotype equally well. For me, what was refreshing was the number of people who didn’t conform to my preconceived expectations. For example, the big mooseheads at the conference — William Schneider, Charles Cook, and Thomas Mann — did a great job on their panel. Schneider, in contrast to his CNN smiling-face persona, was perfectly willing to cross swords with the other participants. Furthermore, the three of them actually attended every panel presentation. At events like these, the headliners often decamp after they’ve presented their own spiel — particularly if they’re in Paris. Not these three. Similarly, it was refreshing to hear ACLU head Nadine Strossen say that 90% of the USA Patriot Act was completely unobjectionable (actually, it was just refreshing to hear a reasonable conversation about the Patriot Act). It was good to hear Dan Mitchell from the Haritage Foundation say that larger budget deficits do put upward pressure on interest rates (though he thinks the magnitude of that effect is pretty damn small). It was amusing to hear a French businessman blast the Kyoto Protocol — not because the U.S. hadn’t signed, but because the agreement put serious constraints on France but not China. 2) In an act of stunning symbolism for French diplomacy, the Foreign Ministry was supposed to host a grand lunch reception for all the participants, with an address by the Foreign Minister himself. When we got to the Quai D’Orsay, however, the Foreign Minister turned out to be a no-show — and the “lunch” consisted of a paltry selection of finger foods that appalled even the French interlocuters. 3) Olivier Blanchard gave an excellent, accessible talk on the implications of the current account deficit that nevertheless bucked conventional wisdom on the topic. His basic argument was that the distribution of costs from a declining dollar was going to adversely affect Europe far more than the United States. A rising Euro renders European goods uncompetitive in the global marketplace, and for a variety of reasons, European consumption is not likely to increase by all that much. In contrast, the U.S. will benefit from an improved balance of trade, while inflationary pressures remain muted. 4) If Chuck Hagel delivers on-the-record talks like the one he gave to our group, the man has zero chance of becoming President. He spent so long praising the conference coordinator for assembling such a “distinguished panel of experts” that for a minute I thought he had misplaced his speech and was just tap-dancing while an aide found it. I’ve heard Hagel before in an off-the-record format, and he was pretty good there, but this was awful. More amusingly, until Hagel spoke the French had cleverly kept the conference room somewhat chilly to ensure that everyone stayed awake. Hagel requested the room be warmed up. Not surprisingly, there were a lot of closed eyes for the rest of the day. By contrast, Connie Morella — a former U.S. Representative for Maryland and currently U.S. Ambassador to the OECD — was more interesting (though, to be fair, she didn’t have to give a talk). Four years from now, any Republican nominee should short-list her for VP consideration. She’s a blue-stater, was able to get re-elected in an overwhelmingly Democratic district until she finally succumbed in 2002, and after her OECD stint will have diplomatic and economic policymaking experience. 5) One wonders just how much anti-Americanism abroad is driven by the distorted lens of American expats. Whjile I was waiting in line to enter the magnificent Musee D’Orsay, I overheard one conversation between an American expat living in Germany and the French couple in front of her. The American explained that Bush is worse than Hitler and that he really didn’t win the 2004 election — he made Democrat ballots disappear.
Daniel W. Drezner is a professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University and co-host of the Space the Nation podcast. Twitter: @dandrezner
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