Friday, 31 March 2017
Of Parisian middle-class parents, Chirac became a French civil servant in 1959 after graduating from the elite ENA graduate school. His big break in politics came in 1962 when he was transferred to the personal staff of Prime Minister Georges Pompidou (LSE), during the presidency of Charles de Gaulle. He quickly made himself indispensable to Pompidou, who nicknamed him “Le Bulldozer” due to his drive and abrasiveness in getting things done. Pompidou acted as Chirac’s mentor and encouraged him to run for the French parliament in the constituency of Corrèze, southwest France, whence his family originated. Elected, he was appointed by Pompidou as government minister in several portfolios. He was Minister of Interior when Pompidou, now President, died of cancer in 1974. In the hastily called elections immediately afterwards, Chirac worked to elect his senior cabinet colleague Valéry Giscard d'Estaing (LII), Pompidou’s finance minister, as president. His reward was to be appointed, at the age of 41, Giscard’s first Prime Minister. However, after two years, Chirac resigned the office, essentially saying that Giscard did not allow him to really act as head of the cabinet. The relationship between the two men became permanently poisoned afterwards, becoming a source of general bewilderment and amusement. As the politics and policies of the two men were not that different, explanations have focused on their personalities and characters.
Chirac himself essentially complained that Giscard was treating him as his “usher”. He elaborated in his memoirs his views on Giscard, describing in detail episodes where he portrayed Giscard as not caring about how he treated individuals or even noticing them, Chirac feeling then the need to interfere. The bitter nature of the Chirac-Giscard relationship is famous in France, even becoming the subject of one episode of the “Duels” series of documentaries, titled “Incompatibles”. One of the points highlighted was the contempt Chirac felt for Giscard when the latter publicly criticised, harshly, the defence policies of his predecessor, Pompidou. As both Chirac and Giscard owed their political careers to Pompidou, Chirac saw that as an unforgivable example of disloyalty.
I would say that the above already gives information relevant for Chirac’s Socionics type. First, a man known as “Le Bulldozer” in the highly politicised and competitive environment of the highest levels of the French government would seem to have valued and strong F, likely as an Ego function. Footage and interviews of Chirac in that period suggest a natural politician, able to seem at ease in any social environment, coming across as a friendly and jovial man accessible to everyone, with no hint of hostility associated with “Le Bulldozer”. Chirac retained those traits throughout his political career and they point to very strong E.
After resigning as Giscard’s prime minister, Chirac rebuilt his political career by first creating a new Gaullist party, the Rally for the Republic (RPR), which he would lead for the whole of its existence, and running for Mayor of Paris, a position which had been abolished in 1871 but now newly re-created by Giscard. Chirac remained Mayor of Paris from 1977 until becoming president in 1995. He used that position to promote himself politically and to increase the RPR’s powers of patronage. He remained generally popular among the electorate of Paris, seen as an energetic, effective, hands-on, visible mayor who got a large number of detailed initiatives going, in many different areas, rather than following a single 'vision' or 'programme' for the capital, besides presenting himself as a counter-balance to the French government’s interference in the city’s affairs. Criticisms of Chirac’s time as Mayor of Paris tend to focus not on his achievements or lack thereof, but on politics: that he was using the office as a source of political power nationally, of patronage for his RPR party, and alleged corruption.
In 1981, Chirac ran for President, coming third after Giscard d’Estaing of the UDF and the Socialist François Mitterrand, who went on to the run-off election. In theory, the natural thing would have been for Chirac to clearly support the centrist Giscard against the Socialist candidate. However, although Chirac did say he would vote for Giscard himself, he very clearly stopped short of asking his supporters to vote for Giscard as well. This was (correctly) understood as Chirac not really supporting Giscard, with the RPR discreetly instructing its members to not vote for Giscard – leading to Mitterrand’s victory in the run-off election. Chirac’s action and political calculus on that occasion puzzled analysts, until Mitterrand himself, as ex-President, revealed to Giscard that Chirac had told Mitterrand that Giscard was “a danger to France” – without explaining why. The most obvious explanation would seem to be the dislike, even hatred, that Chirac now felt for Giscard, rather than any principle or calculation. That would again point to an Ethical rather than Logical type, fitting the above.
Retaining the highly prestigious and visible office of Mayor of Paris, and as leader of the RPR, Chirac became the leader of the opposition during the hard-left phase of Mitterrand’s presidency, which included vast expansion of the state’s control over the French economy and society, with the state taking over several large companies and increasing spending. That period coincided with the start of Ronald Reagan’s (EIE) American presidency and Margaret Thatcher’s (ESI) time as British Prime Minister, and Chirac re-invented himself as a 'Thatcherite' opponent of Mitterrand’s socialist policies. In 1986, Chirac’s coalition won the legislative elections, forcing Mitterrand to appoint Chirac as Prime Minister, the first “cohabitation” of the 5th Republic. As Prime Minister, Chirac indeed adopted 'Thatcherite' policies of privatisation and reducing the influence of the state on the economy.
It is worth noting here that up to that point Jacques Chirac had never given any hint of having any particular ideology, on economics or otherwise. As Giscard’s prime minister, he had followed what was then the Keynesian consensus, and his only consistent political belief, throughout his career, was the Gaullist one of a strong France internationally, especially where defence was concerned. Yet now Chirac appeared as the French version of Reagan and Thatcher. He would later just as easily drop that political identity and ideology, as will be clear below.
Despite some success as Prime Minister, Mitterrand managed to outmaneuver Chirac politically during this period by presenting himself as a sober, moderate statesman who watched over the more hot-headed prime minister, his popularity waxing as Chirac’s waned: Chirac ran for the presidency against Mitterrand in 1988, and lost decisively in the run-off. Mitterrand’s political power was still weak, having to appoint as Prime Minister a moderate Socialist whom he detested, Michel Rocard (and whom he immediately started to conspire to destroy).
Licking his wounds, Chirac again retreated to his power base as Mayor of Paris, waiting out the downward spiral of Mitterrand’s presidency, with the Socialists again losing control of Parliament in 1993. Chirac could have again become Prime Minister if he so chose; he preferred to let his old friend and former finance minister, Édouard Balladur, be Prime Minister instead. Chirac claimed that he simply had no wish to go through another cohabitation with Mitterrand; more importantly, he thought that by not being Prime Minister, he would preserve his popularity when running for the presidency in 1995.
As Prime Minister, Balladur achieved some moderate improvements in the economy, and his 'boring' personality actually came across well to the French electorate. Mitterrand cunningly promoted Balladur’s image as a competent prime minister, and with favourable polls, Balladur decided to betray Chirac and run for President himself in 1995. Chirac deployed all his energy and skills as a politician on campaign, not making any pretence of having a consistent program or ideology, making all sorts of feel-good promises. Jacques Chirac beat Balladur and the Socialist Lionel Jospin, finally becoming President of France in 1995.
Chirac swiftly and ruthlessly condemned to political oblivion not just Balladur himself but also former RPR members who had supported him, including the future President Nicolas Sarkozy (LIE), whom he saw as personal traitors. The first phase of his presidency, with Alain Juppé as Prime Minister, was most notable for the resuming of H-bomb testing in the Pacific, which Chirac said was necessary for France’s nuclear strength, and a series of social protests and unrest due to Juppé’s attempts at free-market reforms and cost-cutting, resulting in Chirac withdrawing his support and Juppé having to back off. Although he still had 3 years left of his legislative majority, Chirac feared that his popularity would only decline, so he took a huge risk and dissolved Parliament in 1997, one year earlier. That gamble backfired hugely, resulting in the Socialists taking control of Parliament and Chirac having to appoint Lionel Jospin as Prime Minister. That marked not only the loss of almost all political power for the next 5 years, but also a huge loss of his personal prestige as his decision to dissolve Parliament was considered stupid and short-sighted by everyone.
During the five years of the government of Lionel Jospin, Chirac was a rather pathetic figure, with less power and prestige than Mitterrand had had in the same situation. Yet, surprisingly, in the 2002 presidential elections, the far-right candidate Jean-Marie Le Pen managed to kick Jospin out of the second round, resulting in Chirac’s re-election with 80% of the vote. Chirac proceeded to create a new party out of the ruins of the RPR, the Union for a Popular Movement (UMP), which gave him parliamentary majority for the rest of his term, and Chirac emerged as an international leader when he opposed the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Nevertheless, the rest of his presidency seemed to run on 'automatic pilot', with Chirac appointing moderate but increasingly weak Prime Ministers, now thoroughly supporting the increase of influence of the European Union (which he had previously opposed). Chirac’s focus in the later part of his presidency seemed to be, to slow down the ascendance of Nicolas Sarkozy, who had emerged as an UMP leader independent of Chirac’s support. As with Giscard, Chirac’s attempts to contain Sarkozy can only be explained by personal enmity rather than by any larger political principle or strategy. Once Sarkozy succeeded Chirac as president, Chirac mostly withdrew from public life, but publicly supported the Socialist François Hollande rather than Sarkozy in the presidential elections of 2012 – which, again, made no sense politically and can only be explained by personal hatred. In his memoirs Chirac all but confirmed this, calling Sarkozy “disloyal” and “ungrateful”.
Besides the already noted high focus and strength on F and ease with E, what seems clear from Chirac’s approach to politics is an almost complete lack of any consistent political belief or ideology. This is most clearly illustrated in his approach to the EU: he flip-flopped from an eurosceptic and opponent of the euro currency into a strong supporter of the proposed EU constitution. His economic policies also show little consistency, Chirac preferring to delegate that to Prime Ministers or Finance Ministers but backing off when opposition grew too obvious.
In an interview with then-minister Nicolas Sarkozy for his documentary on Chirac, the veteran filmmaker Patrick Rotman seemed baffled by Chirac, asking Sarkozy, what is Chirac then, a liberal, a socialist, a what? Sarkozy replied that it was pointless to try to understand Jacques Chirac in those terms. “He is then a pure pragmatist?” “Yes”, Sarkozy said. This is revealing not so much for Sarkozy’s opinion, but because Rotman even felt the need to ask that question, which he wouldn’t have done of any other major French politician.
The overall picture of Jacques Chirac is of a man of huge energy as well as personal charm, energy focused on promoting his own personal ambition and increasing his political power. As a politician, he is oblivious to any consistent ideologies or principles besides a concern for France’s power and independence (F), yet very energetic in getting concrete things done as minister (“Le Bulldozer”) and mayor (F and P). Also very obviously, despite an apparent cynicism, he is extremely focused on personal loyalty, considering personal disloyalty, apparently, as unforgivable, even in the cynical world of politicians. The above points to very strong F, non-existent focus on L, strength in E but also strength and much more focus on R. Despite his inclination, as a politician, to rely on personal charm and feel-good promises (E) to get elected, once in office he had a genuine focus on getting specific things done even at the cost of personal popularity, which suggests a higher focus on P. All of the above points clearly to the Gamma quadra. Its ordering fits best F1, R2, L4, P6 and E8. Chirac’s occasional attempts to be far-sighted, but doing it impulsively and badly, as with his 1997 dissolution or letting Baladour be prime minister, point to valued but very weak T5.
SEE fits best the evidence and is therefore Jacques Chirac’s likely type.
To learn more about the SEE, click here.
Sources: besides Wikipedia, Chirac's and Giscard d'Estaing's memoirs and Patrick Rotman's "Chirac" documentary. An amusing clip of the "Duels" documentary on Giscard and Chirac, showing Chirac's look of hatred at Giscard, can be seen here.
If you are confused by our use of Socionics shorthand, click here.