For Marine Le Pen’s father Jean-Marie, any large terrorist attack smells like a Western conspiracy. According to Mr. Le Pen, a mysterious Western superstate led by “the secret services” may have choreographed the Hebdo attacks that are themselves linked with September 11. The following remarks [from Le Monde, translated from the French] in an interview with the Russian tabloid Komsomolskaïa Pravda will likely rankle his politically ambitious daughter:
“The forgotten passports of the Kouachi brothers [left in the car after the attacks] remind me of the passport of a terrorist that fell out of the burning plane on September 11, 2001, and preserved by some miracle. New York was in flames, but the passport remained intact […]The shoot-out at Charlie Hebdo resembles an operation of the secret services, but we don’t have any proof. I don’t think that the masterminds of this crime were French authorities, but they let this crime be committed. These are speculations for now.”
The Honorary President of the National Front backed away from his Secret Service allegations in a January 16 conversation with Le Monde, but maintained that both attacks were part of a larger international conspiracy. Jean-Marie Le Pen is infamous for his Holocaust jokes, his defense of France’s fascists in World War II, and a recent quip that “Monseigneur Ebola” could solve Africa’s demographic problems.Much like America’s own Rand Paul, Marine Le Pen has distanced herself from her father in an attempt to craft a persona and a stance that could reach beyond the confines of her father’s hard core support. She hopes to create a new “umbrella party” that can capture disaffected voters on the moderate right and the far left. But Jean-Marie’s fingerprints are still visible in the organization’s populist nativism, along with the Front National’s ties to Russia maintained by both father and daughter.“Operation Respectability” seems to be working, at least up to a point. The younger Le Pen managed to publish an op-ed in the New York Times of all places on January 18. At this rate she will be in Davos before long, calling for stricter border policies and slashing immigration by 95%, reducing the number of new immigrants coming to France from 200,000 persons per year to 10,000.Marine Le Pen faces many obstacles in her quest for the French presidency, but she has one large advantage: the intellectual and political vacuum that prevails in both the left and right wing of the French establishment these days. Neither the Socialists nor their UMP rivals seem to have answers for France’s economic woes, its troubles with immigrants or its marginalization by Germany in European affairs. When the mainstream doctors have no cure for what ails you, people turn to the quacks. France has been an essentially conservative country ever since the French Revolution gave the land to the peasants; that is both a blessing and a curse today. It is a blessing, because canny French voters continue to reject the kind of extremist populism that Le Pen pere seeks to peddle. It is a curse, because the 21st century demands the kind of sweeping, open-ended change that French voters prefer to avoid.