Politicians and Freebies

First it was Tunisia’s Zein El Abidine Ben Ali. Then it was Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak. Ousted by their own people? Yes, but here in France, they will be remembered as the all-expenses-paid hosts of Nicolas Sarkozy’s two leading ministers. Step forward, Prime Minister François Fillon and Foreign Minister Michèle Alliot-Marie. Their timing was impeccable. The foreign minister and her consort, Deputy Minister of Parliamentary Relations Patrick Ollier, were flown around Tunisia with their children courtesy of a millionaire friend of Ben Ali’s about the time a young man’s self-immolation set the former French colony alight. On her return to Paris at the end of her complimentary winter vacation, Alliot-Marie proposed that France help Tunisian police quell the unrest and keep Ben Ali in office. Oops. The French could teach the Tunisians how to wield a nightstick; Ben Ali skipped town.

The French press picked up the story, and Prime Minister François Fillon gallantly leapt to her defense when the free holiday became public knowledge, only to be outed himself as a recipient of Hosni Mubarak’s largesse.
Conrad Hilton used to say the important thing in the hotel business was location, location, location. In politics, it’s timing. Fillon’s timing could not have been worse. In one of the more laughable political confessions this side of Chicago, the prime minister’s office released a statement that Fillon was coming clean about his own free Egyptian Christmas sojourn “in the interest of transparency.” His sudden decision to become transparent followed France’s satirical Canard Enchaîné running a front story about his vacation every night. Yet Fillon thinks he can get away with it, and he probably will. All he did was allow Mubarak’s regime to pick up the tab for his family’s hotel rooms, Nile cruise, and airfares.
Read the rest on Taki’s Magazine.