Philip Gourevitch scrutinizes how the French right-wing leader has played her cards over the past week:
In the immediate aftermath of the attack on Wednesday, as traffic surged on her Facebook page and she picked up thousands of new followers, she did nothing special to insert herself into the story or to exploit the fears that the Front has long fed on. She reiterated her longstanding call for France to withdraw, unilaterally and at once, from the Schengen Agreement, which allows for open borders within the extended European community, but that was hardly newsworthy. Rather, Le Pen appeared to adopt the time-tested opposition strategy of waiting for the political establishment to make a misstep that would turn attention her way—and she did not have to wait long. Within hours of the Charlie Hebdo massacre, the ruling Socialists and a coalition of allied parties of the left announced plans for a massive solidarity rally on Sunday—a silent march through the heart of Paris in the cause of “national unity”—without extending an invitation to the National Front.
The exclusion of the Front was great news for Le Pen. Nobody believed that she would have wanted to go and be associated with the political mainstream, but, by failing to invite her, the Socialists had given her a cudgel.
Comparing Le Pen to her father, Jean-Marie, and other intellectual forebears of the French right, John Gaffney finds her wanting as a standard bearer:
Marine is good on TV, she’s a reasonable debater, and she seems to have chosen to walk away from lots of the right’s traditions and manners. But the detox also involves – apart from all the other things it involves – losing one’s intellectual tradition. Does this have advantages – for her and/or for those who oppose the FN?
Marine Le Pen is ‘ordinary’, in fact, very and deliberately ordinary. She is, in the true tradition of the far right, a very forceful personality. But she’s a particular forceful, and a particular ordinary. She’s a twice divorced mum who lives with her partner and their respective kids. That is a far cry from far right values, in itself. And the fact that it is a woman leading this movement is fascinating, a movement whose philosophy and populism loves the leader, but never imagined it might be a female leader. But she is not like Joan of Arc, the FN’s female heroine. She has no visions. No grace inhabits her; she is more like a bossy and assertive middle manager at Asda.
She certainly doesn’t look as if – unlike her father – she has read Barrès or Voyage au bout de la nuit…. as have all French politicians and intellectuals. One gets the impression that not only has she not read them, she doesn’t give a toss either.
Meanwhile, Martin Robbins demolishes Le Pen’s call for France to bring back the death penalty in response to the Charlie Hebdo massacre:
What, exactly, are executions supposed to achieve? You can’t execute a suicide bomber. Death isn’t a big problem for the kind of fanatics willing to die for a cause. Even if you just look at ordinary crime, there’s no real reason to think that execution would deter people. As Amnesty put it, “The threat of execution at some future date is unlikely to enter the minds of those acting under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol, those who are in the grip of fear or rage, those who are panicking while committing another crime (such as a robbery), or those who suffer from mental illness or mental retardation and do not fully understand the gravity of their crime.” They note that murder rates are considerably higher in those American states that still have the death penalty.
David Corn piles on:
The goal of martyrdom has motivated numerous jihadists to conduct murderous action. Suicide bombers, the 9/11 plotters, and others seek to die in pursuit of their cause and believe that there will be a reward on the other side. So the best punishment, when such criminals are apprehended, would be to deny them martyrdom and force them to wait decades, maybe half a century, to meet their violence-supporting maker—preferably in a small, isolated cell for all that time. Recruiters of jihadist killers might have a tougher time selling a decades-long stint in prison than a glorious exit in a blaze of gunfire or a high-profile state execution that would receive attention around the world.