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White House race stoops to French bashing, again

AFP/The Local · 29 Oct 2015, 08:21

Published: 29 Oct 2015 08:21 GMT+01:00

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White House hopeful Jeb Bush mustered the ultimate American put-down as he clashed with a former ally at Wednesday's Republican Presidential debate: he accused him of putting in a French work week.

Florida Senator Marco Rubio -- who like Bush hopes to steal a march on current frontrunners Donald Trump and Ben Carson -- has come under fire over perceptions he neglected his duties as he focuses on 2016.

"Literally, the Senate, is it a French work week? You turn up for like three days?" Bush hit out in a fiery exchange with his Florida neighbour early in the debate in Boulder, Colorado.

"Just resign and let somebody else take the job. There are a lot of people who are living paycheck to paycheck in Florida."

Rubio was presumably referring to France's 35-hour work week, which is regularly the subject of mocking in America (see video below).

The reality is most French people work more than 35 hours each week but the cliché has stubbornly remained on the other side of the Atlantic.
In reality, numerous exceptions mean the 35-hour week applies to slightly less than half of French workers, and does not include managers. 
A labour ministry report published last year revealed French workers put in an average of 39.5 hours a week in 2011, slightly behind the EU average of 40.3 hours and the 41-hour working week in Germany and 42.4 hours in the UK.

The same survey showed French middle-management worked an average of 44.1 hours a week.

But to get around the 35-hour week law most companies simply offer workers extra days holiday, known as RTT (Reduction de Temps Travail), in return for working a 39-hour week.

France's ambassador to the United States was not impressed with Jeb Bush's rolling out an old cliché to try to score points against his rival.
Gérard Araud later tweeted out defiantly: "A French work week of three days? No, but a pregnancy paid leave of 16 weeks yes! And proud of it."
After which the ambassador was questioned by a tweeter whether he was "proud of France's tax rates "to which he hit back: "Yes proud of the tax rates. For us health care and tax rates are not commodities, but human rights with universal commodities."

Many consider Rubio to be the most serious establishment challenger beyond Bush to go up against Carson or Trump, neither of whom have held elected office.

Rubio responded to Bush by saying many White House hopefuls -- including John McCain -- had missed Senate votes as they focused on the presidential race.

"Jeb, let me tell you, I don't remember you ever complaining about John McCain's vote record," said Rubio. "Someone convinced you attacking me is going to help you."

Rubio stands third in the RealClearPolitics average of opinion polls, at nine percent, well behind Trump (26.8) and Carson (22.0) but ahead of Bush (7.0).

French bashing common in fight for White House

In every race for the White House there always seems to be a moment when candidates attack the French connections of their rivals to try to win votes.

In January 2012 Republican presidential front-runner Mitt Romney was targeted in a political ad – for speaking French.

Story continues below…

The highlighting of Romney’s French skills was an attempt to portray him as an elitist as well as a “European-style liberal wimp”. Romney lost his bid for the White House.

And in 2004 John Kerry, the then Democratic nominee to challenge George W Bush for the White House, was attacked for “looking French”.

Kerry speaks French and has relatives in the country, which was as good as treason for some Republicans.

Kerry went on to lose the election.

AFP/The Local (ben.mcpartland@thelocal.com)

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