French press review 21 February 2017

Global weapons sales are booming, if you'll pardon the expression. François Fillon is going to make France healthier, while knocking 20 billion euros off the health budget. And Donald Trump tells us what Thomas Jefferson really thought about newspapers and journalists.


Le Monde says global arms sales are up, a sure sign that governments nearly everywhere are increasingly worried about security. Trade in military equipment is now at the level last seen at the end of the Cold War.

The main concerns seem to be the Islamic State armed group, the conflict in Ukraine, Russian territorial and strategic ambitions, China's efforts to intimidate the neighbours, and the ongoing struggle between India and Pakistan for control of the state of Kashmir.

The French arms industry is doing very nicely, thank you. Thanks mainly to the sale of jet fighters to India and submarines to Australia, the sector notched up 20 billion euros in orders last year alone.

Fillon to make France healthier, and save 20 billion euros

The main story in right-wing Le Figaro has François Fillon explaining his plans for the health sector. Basically, the French are going to get a much better service over the next five years and the candidate of the right and centre is going to save 20 billion euros in the process.

You may remember that, when he outlined his first health proposals last autumn, Fillon was accused by his opponents of wanting to privatise the French social security system. When that caused a riot of public discontent, he went back to the drawing board and has now decided that the private insurance companies are going to have to make more of an effort to help the government save money.

This time you can expect the riot of discontent to be lead by the insurers.

Four years in 'plane piloted by madman'

The main headline in left-leaning Libération reads "Only 1,429 days to go". When I tell you that the accompanying photograph is of grumpy Trump, you'll guess that that's how much of his four-year mandate remains.

Libé says the new American leader has certainly managed to put some of his campaign promises into place, attacking minorities, foreigners, justice and climate protection groups, while making it easier for high finance to go unhindered about its way.

But Trump has also mobilised quite a few opponents, those who, to quote one young man interviewed by Libé, refuse to spend four years in an airplane piloted by a madman.

All presidents are equal, but some are more equal than others

The pilot has certainly come up with some of the best one-liners since Groucho Marx swallowed his cigar.

During last weekend's visit to "his people" in Melbourne, Florida, the American leader continued to bash the media, invoking previous US presidents to support him in the battle against journalists he accused of being inaccurate or lying.

Trump called on the ghost of Thomas Jefferson, third president of the United States, saying that Long Tom, the Apostle of Democracy, would surely agree with his billionaire successor that journalists aren't worth the paper their stories are printed on.

Jefferson did, in fact, have strong views about the press. He once said that, offered the choice between "a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government", he would unhesitatingly choose the second option. Trump doesn't seem to have read to the end of Jefferson's famous saying, settling for "government without newspapers".

There is, as Le Monde's editorial points out, a real danger that the new Washington administration is trying to undermine press freedom by using social media to present that administration's view of the Trump presidency. Everything else is lies.

The new man should keep reading his Jefferson. He will then come upon his predecessor's remark that "no man will ever carry out of the presidency the reputation which carried him into it."

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