Fianna Fáil loses the Wall Street Journal
It's perhaps just a coincidence that as corruption and cronyism finally go out of style in American politics, the Wall Street Journal editorial page decisively dumps one of its foreign darlings -- the Republic of Ireland's natural party of government, Fianna Fáil, and its ideological tail that wags the populist dog, the Progressive (sic) Democrats (sic).
The WSJ uncorks this move in an editorial in the European edition today, and we immodestly claim credit for having been a year ahead of them, because they are specifically disillusioned with two of Bertie Ahern's strokes from his stint as EU Council of Ministers head last year, about which we have posted frequently -- the insertion of Azores Summit chump Jose Manuel Barroso as EU Commission President, and his own finance minister Charlie McCreevy as EU Commissioner for Internal Markets. And so here's what the Journal (subs. req'd) has to say:
José Manuel Barroso ... the other day unveiled his long-advertised fight against red tape. By trashing 68 proposed EU laws, the Portuguese politician is doing nothing less than trying to salvage his presidency. Mr. Barroso must start somewhere after his annus horribilis ...
Mr. Barroso's second handicap is his Commissioners. The "dream team" included prominent European politicians with strong free market credentials. Early on, President Barroso was tripped up by the European Parliament, which blocked the nomination of Rocco Buttiglione to the justice post because the Italian admitted to practicing Catholicism, a heresy in modern Europe.
Many of his heavy hitters have turned out to be great disappointments in office -- none more so than Internal Market Commissioner Charlie McCreevy, who was an outstanding Irish finance minister. The Brussels air must not suit him. He has shunned any confrontations with the EU's entrenched interests. During last spring's showdown with France over the liberalization of services, the most important step toward making a single market reality, the Irishman was conspicuous by his silence. In one of its worst moments, the Commission caved. It could redeem itself by reviving this directive.
Mr. Barroso could soon find relief for his third headache. He was the first Commission President who got the job without the full support of France and Germany. Recall that Tony Blair and the "New Europeans" nixed their candidate, the mini-me Prime Minister of Belgium, Guy Verhofstadt, and got the pro-American Mr. Barroso in. Gerhard Schröder and Jacques Chirac have never forgiven the Portuguese prime minister. Mr. Chirac treats him almost like his valet. He calls him an "ultra-liberal" -- the highest insult in France
Not much of a verdict on Bertie's stitch-up, then. But the WSJ is not quite ready to count Barroso out:
As long as Mr. Barroso annoys the French, he must be doing something right.
With Bertie on a new populist push and perhaps still getting advice about the advantages of keeping the the influential Yanks onside, could there be a little francophobic stew being cooked in Drumcondra this weekend?