en-fr  Le Pen and Macron Clash in Vicious Presidential Debate in France
Le Pen et Macron s'affrontent dans un débat présidentiel rude en France.

Par Adam Nossiter, The New York Times, 3 mai 2017.

PARIS - Il a dit qu'elle racontait des mensonges. Elle l'a traité d'arrogant. Il l'a accusée de répéter des "bêtises". Elle l'a interrompu et lui a dit de ne pas lui faire la morale. Il a hoché la tête tristement et elle a ri sur un ton sarcastique.

Le débat de mercredi soir entre les deux candidats à la présidence française, Marine Le Pen du Front National d'extrême droite et l'ancien ministre centriste de l'économie, Emmanuel Macron, ressemblait plus à une furieuse altercation télévisée à l'Américaine qu'à la discussion pondérée des problèmes à laquelle les Français ont été habitués. C'était un cas d'école de combat verbal violent : tous deux se parlaient avec colère, se coupaient la parole, brandissaient le poing et montraient du doigt, laissant les animateurs médusés et impuissants.

Mais c'était aussi une démonstration flagrante de deux visions radicalement opposées de la France, entre lesquelles les électeurs devront choisir dimanche, lors du deuxième tour. M. Macron, 39 ans, ancien banquier et technocrate calme, éduqué dans les meilleures écoles françaises et bénéficiaire d'une ascension fulgurante, faisait face à Mme Le Pen, 48 ans, rejeton de l'une des familles politiques les plus connues du pays, héritière d'un parti d'extrême droite, qui a tenté de le pousser vers le centre.

Les deux candidats n'ont pas caché leur mépris mutuel, et leurs divergences totales sur tous les sujets : l'Europe, le terrorisme, l'économie stagnante de la France, la Russie, expliquaient pourquoi.

« La grande prêtresse de la peur est assise devant moi », dit M. Macron avec dérision, présentant son adversaire comme une dangereuse extrémiste avec des liens ancrés dans le sombre passé de son parti. Il n'a pas manqué de répéter son nom, pour rappeler au public sa filiation : son père, Jean-Marie Le Pen, a fondé le Front National et est associé à une posture historique d'anti-sémitisme, de déni de l'Holocauste et de stigmatisation des immigrants.

« Vous êtes la France de la soumission », Mme Mme Le Pen, dit-il avec mépris ; elle ne voit en M. Macron qu'un banquier sans cœur. « Nous avons vu les choix que vous avez faits, les choix cyniques, qui révèlent la froideur du banquier d'affaires que vous n'avez jamais cessé d'être. »

Il la distance de 20 points dans les sondages et on le considère comme le probable gagnant dimanche. The debate is expected to move some voters, but not enough to make up for Ms. Le Pen’s substantial polling deficit. She has seen some slight improvement in recent polls and was clearly hoping to destabilize her younger opponent as she did in the first-round debates, when other candidates were present. Avec rien à perdre et tout à gagner, elle se lança dans des attaques frontales.

Mais M. Macron a dans l'ensemble gardé son calme, présentant, malgré les attaques, son programme point par point pendant que Mme Le Pen, true to the scrappy, guerrilla-style party that she leads — it is stronger on combat than on policy — spent much of the two-and-a-half-hour contest attacking him. What policy proposals she offered appeared sketchy.

Mr. Macron offered his view of a France open to Europe and free trade, staying in the common currency, reinforcing its ties with European nations, dealing firmly with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, and overhauling its stultifying and voluminous labor code in order, he said, to generate more jobs.

“We are in the world,” Mr. Macron said. “France is not a closed country”.

Ms. Le Pen depicted a France with a “total collapse of our industries,” preyed upon by Islamist extremists, demanding ever more government protection from economic vicissitudes and urgently needing to close its borders. “I’m the candidate of that France that we love, who will protect our frontiers, who will protect us from savage globalization,” she said at the outset.

Mr. Macron was a ruthless capitalist in Ms. Le Pen’s familiar neo-populist depiction, ready to sell French industry down the river to hurt workers and help employers. She repeatedly tied Mr. Macron to the failed government of the incumbent Socialist president, François Hollande, in which Mr. Macron served for two years before quitting to start his own political movement.

“You defend private interests,” Ms. Le Pen sneered. “And behind that there is social ruin”.

Mr. Macron replied evenly, “What’s extraordinary is that your strategy is simply to say a lot of lies and propose nothing to help the country”. He pointed out the weaknesses in her generous spending plans, noting the lack of revenue-raising measures to back them. “France and the French deserve better,” he said. “Don’t say stupid things. You are saying a lot of them”.

Some of the sharpest exchanges came over terrorism, which polls show is a major preoccupation for the French. Ms. Le Pen cast herself as tougher on the issue, reeling off a series of antiterrorism measures — experts have suggested that they are either impractical or ineffective — and saying Mr. Macron was a weakling on security. Nonetheless, it is one of her signature issues, always drawing a thunderous response when she invokes it at rallies. “You are for laxism,” Ms. Le Pen said.

“You are complaisant toward Islamist fundamentalism,” she said. “We’ve got to eradicate fundamentalist ideologies. You won’t do it, because they support you”.

Bristling, Mr. Macron pointed out the impracticality of expelling the thousands of people who are in the government’s so-called S-files because they are considered to constitute some potential danger to the country’s security. “The S-files are just information files,” Mr. Macron said. “You can be an S-filer merely for having crossed paths with a jihadist”.

“You’ve got to be much more surgical than Ms. Le Pen,” he added. “What you are proposing, as usual, is merely powder,” he said, pointing out that as a member of the European Parliament, Ms. Le Pen voted repeatedly against antiterrorism measures.

She dismissed these criticisms, as she did the entire European Union project. Under her, she said, “French laws will be superior to laws given out by some commissioner whose name we don’t even know”.

Mr. Macron posited a diametrically opposed view, insisting that France’s place was in a stronger Europe that could stand up to Mr. Putin’s Russia and President Trump’s United States. Ms. Le Pen’s idea is that “we’re going to leave Europe because the others can make it, but we can’t,” he said. “In the face of this spirit of defeat, I am for the spirit of conquest, because France has always succeeded”.
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Le Pen and Macron Clash in Vicious Presidential Debate in France.
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By Adam Nossiter, The New York Times, May 3, 2017.
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PARIS — He said she was telling lies.
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She called him arrogant.
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He accused her of repeating “stupidities”.
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She cut him off and told him not to lecture her.
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He shook his head sadly, and she laughed sarcastically.
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“You are the France of submission,” Ms.
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Le Pen said with scorn; Mr. Macron was merely a heartless banker, in her view.
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He leads her by 20 points in polls and is considered likely to win on Sunday.
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Le Pen’s substantial polling deficit.
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With nothing to lose and everything to gain, she went for direct frontal attacks.
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What policy proposals she offered appeared sketchy.
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“We are in the world,” Mr. Macron said.
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“France is not a closed country”.
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Ms.
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Mr. Macron was a ruthless capitalist in Ms.
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“You defend private interests,” Ms.
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Le Pen sneered.
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“And behind that there is social ruin”.
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“France and the French deserve better,” he said.
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“Don’t say stupid things.
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You are saying a lot of them”.
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Ms.
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“You are for laxism,” Ms.
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Le Pen said.
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“You are complaisant toward Islamist fundamentalism,” she said.
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“We’ve got to eradicate fundamentalist ideologies.
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You won’t do it, because they support you”.
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“The S-files are just information files,” Mr. Macron said.
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“You’ve got to be much more surgical than Ms.
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Le Pen,” he added.
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Le Pen voted repeatedly against antiterrorism measures.
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Ms.
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Le Pen and Macron Clash in Vicious Presidential Debate in France.

By Adam Nossiter, The New York Times, May 3, 2017.

PARIS — He said she was telling lies. She called him arrogant. He accused her of repeating “stupidities”. She cut him off and told him not to lecture her. He shook his head sadly, and she laughed sarcastically.

The debate on Wednesday night between France’s two presidential candidates, Marine Le Pen of the far-right National Front and the centrist former economy minister Emmanuel Macron, was more like an angry American-style television shoutfest than the reasoned discussion of issues the French have become accustomed to. It was a study in violent verbal combat: The two talked angrily over each other, cut each other off, shook fists and pointed fingers, leaving the moderators bewildered and helpless.

But it was also a stark demonstration of two radically different visions of France that voters will have to choose between on Sunday in the election’s final round. Mr. Macron, 39, the former banker and cool technocrat, educated at France’s finest schools and the beneficiary of a meteoric rise, faced off against Ms. Le Pen, 48, the scion of one of the country’s most notorious political families, the inheritor of a far-right party who has tried to move it toward the center.

The two candidates did not hide their disdain for each other, and their total divergence on all the issues — Europe, terrorism, France’s stagnant economy, Russia — explained why.

“The high priestess of fear is sitting in front of me,” Mr. Macron said derisively, having cast his opponent as a dangerous extremist with deep ties to her party’s dark past. He made a point of repeating her name, to remind viewers of her parental filiation: her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, founded the National Front and is associated with its historical posture of anti-Semitism, Holocaust denial and stigmatization of immigrants.

“You are the France of submission,” Ms. Le Pen said with scorn; Mr. Macron was merely a heartless banker, in her view. “We’ve seen the choice you’ve made, the cynical choices, that reveal the coldness of the investment banker you have never ceased being”.

He leads her by 20 points in polls and is considered likely to win on Sunday. The debate is expected to move some voters, but not enough to make up for Ms. Le Pen’s substantial polling deficit. She has seen some slight improvement in recent polls and was clearly hoping to destabilize her younger opponent as she did in the first-round debates, when other candidates were present. With nothing to lose and everything to gain, she went for direct frontal attacks.

But Mr. Macron generally kept his cool, laying out his program point by point through the shouting, while Ms. Le Pen, true to the scrappy, guerrilla-style party that she leads — it is stronger on combat than on policy — spent much of the two-and-a-half-hour contest attacking him. What policy proposals she offered appeared sketchy.

Mr. Macron offered his view of a France open to Europe and free trade, staying in the common currency, reinforcing its ties with European nations, dealing firmly with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, and overhauling its stultifying and voluminous labor code in order, he said, to generate more jobs.

“We are in the world,” Mr. Macron said. “France is not a closed country”.

Ms. Le Pen depicted a France with a “total collapse of our industries,” preyed upon by Islamist extremists, demanding ever more government protection from economic vicissitudes and urgently needing to close its borders. “I’m the candidate of that France that we love, who will protect our frontiers, who will protect us from savage globalization,” she said at the outset.

Mr. Macron was a ruthless capitalist in Ms. Le Pen’s familiar neo-populist depiction, ready to sell French industry down the river to hurt workers and help employers. She repeatedly tied Mr. Macron to the failed government of the incumbent Socialist president, François Hollande, in which Mr. Macron served for two years before quitting to start his own political movement.

“You defend private interests,” Ms. Le Pen sneered. “And behind that there is social ruin”.

Mr. Macron replied evenly, “What’s extraordinary is that your strategy is simply to say a lot of lies and propose nothing to help the country”. He pointed out the weaknesses in her generous spending plans, noting the lack of revenue-raising measures to back them. “France and the French deserve better,” he said. “Don’t say stupid things. You are saying a lot of them”.

Some of the sharpest exchanges came over terrorism, which polls show is a major preoccupation for the French. Ms. Le Pen cast herself as tougher on the issue, reeling off a series of antiterrorism measures — experts have suggested that they are either impractical or ineffective — and saying Mr. Macron was a weakling on security. Nonetheless, it is one of her signature issues, always drawing a thunderous response when she invokes it at rallies. “You are for laxism,” Ms. Le Pen said.

“You are complaisant toward Islamist fundamentalism,” she said. “We’ve got to eradicate fundamentalist ideologies. You won’t do it, because they support you”.

Bristling, Mr. Macron pointed out the impracticality of expelling the thousands of people who are in the government’s so-called S-files because they are considered to constitute some potential danger to the country’s security. “The S-files are just information files,” Mr. Macron said. “You can be an S-filer merely for having crossed paths with a jihadist”.

“You’ve got to be much more surgical than Ms. Le Pen,” he added. “What you are proposing, as usual, is merely powder,” he said, pointing out that as a member of the European Parliament, Ms. Le Pen voted repeatedly against antiterrorism measures.

She dismissed these criticisms, as she did the entire European Union project. Under her, she said, “French laws will be superior to laws given out by some commissioner whose name we don’t even know”.

Mr. Macron posited a diametrically opposed view, insisting that France’s place was in a stronger Europe that could stand up to Mr. Putin’s Russia and President Trump’s United States. Ms. Le Pen’s idea is that “we’re going to leave Europe because the others can make it, but we can’t,” he said. “In the face of this spirit of defeat, I am for the spirit of conquest, because France has always succeeded”.