A guy Polanski probably doesn't want on his side

It's not very smart (or legal, or moral) to patronize underage prostitutes. If you do engage in such behavior, it's not very smart to write about it in your memoir. If you do write about it, it's not very smart to then seek political office. If you do somehow reach political office, it's not very smart to use your position to defend someone else from child sex charges.

Frederic Mitterrand is apparently not very smart.

When the French culture minister -- who is the also the nephew of former French President Francois Mitterand -- led the French government's charge in denouncing the arrest of director Roman Polanski, he might have thought about the fact that his own autobiography, published before the former television presenter went into politics, contains details of his paying for sex with young boys in Thailand. A sample:

"All these rituals of the market for youths, the slave market excited me enormously... the abundance of very attractive and immediately available young boys put me in a state of desire."

Opposition leaders are calling for Mitterand to resign (unfortunately, the campaign is being led by the far-right National Front, which puts the Socialists in an awkward spot) but this does seem like an inevitable scandal that Sarkozy's government could have easily avoided.  Comment dit-on "vetting" en Français?



Is Medvedev finding his voice?

There's some interesting Kremlinology in Charles Clover's Financial Times piece today about President Medvedev's decision to hire two new speechwriters:

Mr Medvedev’s new head speechwriter, Eva Vasilevskaya, previously worked with him when he was first deputy prime minister and has been a member of his speechwriting team since he came to the Kremlin. She will play a central role in drafting the annual address to the general assembly, expected in late October or early November, the most important speech of the year for Mr Medvedev.

Alexei Chadaev, a conservative political commentator, is expected shortly to be named as a speechwriter working alongside the Kremlin’s first deputy chief of staff, Vladislav Surkov, who oversees management of the Kremlin’s domestic political machine. Mr Chadaev is known for a public criticism of Mr Surkov’s ideology in January. Yet to be confirmed, his appointment has been widely reported by Moscow papers with close links to the Kremlin and people in the Kremlin have confirmed that background checks are being carried out.

The reshuffle underlines a new ideological direction Mr Medvedev appears to be taking, away from that of his predecessor and mentor, Vladimir Putin, prime minister, who remains the hegemonic figure in Russian politics. Until now Mr Medvedev has made only a handful of appointments, mostly federal governors, and overwhelmingly those surrounding him are Mr Putin’s former staff.

It's easy to read too much into moves like this and it's hard to see how new speechwriters will make Medvedev more politically independent if the people surrounding him actually implementing policy are still Putin loyalists. Still, expect plenty of tea leaf reading after the assembly speech as analysts search for signs that Vova and Dima aren't getting along.