Jacques Chirac has waited eighteen days to address the French nation after the outbreak of an insurrection, no less, and everybody's giving him a pass.
"We will respond by being firm, by being fair and by being faithful to the values of France," the president said in his national address on Monday.
"These events bear witness to a deep malaise."
Chirac has been largely absent from the public eye as parts of Paris and other French cities burned through the night for 18 days, and thousands of cars and buildings were set on fire by young people, mostly Muslim.
The 72-year-old used a spokesman on Nov. 9 to announce the revival of a state of emergency law to crush the unrest.
Last week, Chirac made an admission of failure, saying the government has not acted quickly in tackling racial discrimination.
Democratic leaders address the people promptly; monarchs withdraw to the palace in dignified silence. Chirac's seclusion might have been befitting of the Bourbons; it is unbecoming of a democratically elected president.
Chirac might have conceivably prevented the insurrection from spreading had he spoken to the nation on the first night, condemned the insurgents as treasonous cowards, and pledged to crush the rebellion with all possible force.
Instead, he begs forgiveness of the rioters for discrimination and offers bribes.
His reference to "malaise" reminds one of Jimmy Carter. And in his response to France's greatest crisis in decades, he has been just as pathetic.
He may as well have stayed at home.