Monday, December 16, 2013


Wordburglar, composer of the only known rap on the subject of the croque-monsieur.
New York Times London bureau chief Baron Stephan von Erlanger, in breaking news from Monaco, reports that the Saudi, Israeli, and French foreign ministries do not entirely approve of President Obama's foreign policy. No, that's making it sound too exciting. Some old retired guys who may possibly in some sense represent the Saudi and Israeli [jump]
foreign ministries, plus one old guy, Laurent Fabius, who ought to have retired; because H.R.H. Prince Turki al Faisal last officially represented represented anything in 2007, when he finished his term as Saudi ambassador to the US, while Itamar Rabinovich stopped being Israeli ambassador to the same country in 1996.

Prince Turki is now chairman of the King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies, and possibly better known as the father of motosport racer and Red Bull spokesman Abdulaziz bin Turki al Faisal. Rabinovich is an itinerant lecturer, dividing his time among Tel Aviv University, New York University, and the Brookings Institution. Ex–prime minister Fabius, of course, is serving as actual foreign minister in the French cabinet, as representative of the Dead People's or Mitterandiste Faction of the Parti Socialiste, as well as having taken over the role of Person Who Proves You Don't Have to Be a Socialist to Be In the PS after the early (but not premature) retirement of Dominique Strauss-Kahn, which makes him particularly important to the peace of mind of Baron Erlanger, for the baron has long feared the possibility of a hostile takeover of French socialism by the working class, or something vaguely like it.*
They're all in Monte Carlo for the waters—no, really for the
World Policy Conference, a gathering of officials and intellectuals largely drawn from Europe, the Middle East and North Africa,
which is presumably why we need Baron von Erlanger there to interpret it for us. The prince in particular seems to give tons of interviews, carefully explaining:
Let me first say that I hold no government position nor am I privy to any government interaction. So I reflect mostly what I read in the press and from past experience try to extrapolate, as we say in Arabic “measuring how things evolve.”
This is by no means to be understood as suggesting that the Saudi, Israeli, and French foreign ministries are not annoyed by President Obama's foreign policy, since it has been clear for at least a couple of months that they are. The Daily Mail even reported on October 22, on the basis of interviews with retired princes Bandar and Turki, that Saudi Arabia had severed diplomatic relations with the United States, a report that, while entirely untrue, captured the princely feelings with admirable passion and concision.

I do, however, wonder who at the Times world desk thought this was in some sense "news", since everyone even mildly interested knew it already, as opposed to a rank contribution to the Saudi-Likud-Aipac campaign to torpedo the negotiations to put Iran's nuclear energy program under international control.

*Erlanger on Hollande, at the height of the presidential campaign, in the opening paragraph of a piece for the Times Magazine, devotes all his skills to fat-shaming the future president, in a remarkable performance:
Even after a precampaign diet last year — less wine, less cheese and especially less chocolate — François Hollande, the Socialist who is currently favored to become the next president of France, still has a soft face and looks slightly sloppy in his medium-gray suits. He used to be referred to as “Flanby,” after a brand of wobbly caramel pudding, just one of a string of insulting nicknames for a convivial man considered always at the second rank of politics. He has been called “a living marshmallow” and “Mr. Little Jokes,” and just last year, Martine Aubry, the head of the Socialist Party, described him as a couille molle, a nasty way of saying he has no guts.
He wasn't exactly campaigning for Sarkozy, whom he clearly despises as a parvenu who wasn't able to graduate from Sciences-Po because of his bad English grades,  but his un-Timesian hatred for Hollande is pretty undisguised.

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