Interview with David Martinon, French Consul General, Part 2

Posted on 05. Nov, 2009 by in Interviews, Politics


David Martinon is the Consul General at the Los Angeles French Consulate. In this role, he is responsible for promoting French culture and arts, science, and business, as well as caring for French citizens in the US. Prior to joining the Los Angeles Consulate in 2008, Mr. Martinon was a spokesperson for the French President, before which he was chief of staff for President Sarkozy’s presidential campaign. And before that, he worked as a diplomatic advisor for four years. In this two-part interview we continue by discussing David’s experience as President Sarkozy’s campaign manager, and France’s position on the Copenhagen Agreement.

OG: As chief of staff of President Sarkozy’s Presidential campaign, what did you think of President Obama’s campaign strategies? They were considered quite innovative.

David: Every new campaign brings new tools, new methods. I’m actually quite proud of Sarkozy’s 2007 campaign. In that campaign, we created a few of those tools. We took ideas from previous American campaigns, two ideas specifically. From the 2004 Dean campaign, we adopted his use of social networks, and from the 2004 Bush campaign, we took the idea of the volunteer program. In the last 72 hours before election day, Bush sent volunteers door to door to get people out to vote.

From that we made a few programs- recruiting volunteers by internet, and we also enabled them to see other volunteers in their area on our website, thus combining the two tools. Another good idea the Obama campaign picked up from us was the use of web TV. We created it, and a few observers from the Clinton, Obama and McCain campaigns came to observe us in 2007. Obama also used web TV, but much bigger and more sophisticated. This was even more crucial in the US than in France. In France we can’t broadcast political ads on TV, here it’s OK, but so very costly. What’s interesting here in the US is that web TV placement costs nothing,  and people online pay attention longer and show better retention than TV viewers. I think it will be used even more in the future.

Obama was extremely efficient with fundraising. The main difference with our campaign is that we recruited a lot of volunteers online, but didn’t get as many boots on the ground as Obama did. During the primaries, I visited Obama’s headquarters and McCain’s headquarters as well. There were not many differences, but what they really succeeded in doing was to convert internet volunteers into active volunteers, and Obama’s volunteers were very disciplined.

The McCain campaign was not bad either, he’d only just obtained the nomination, and was still broadening his foundation. Putting aside characters, the machinery of the Republican party was very efficient. One thing I’m very proud of- When we visited the US in 2006, I told Sarkozy he had to meet two Congressmen- McCain and Obama, when most people in the US didn’t even realize who Obama was.

OG: Tell me where the French government stands on Copenhagen.

David: We’re preparing for Copenhagen, we know perfectly well the few principles that must guide Copenhagen, and what will make it successful or not. Recent EU decisions were extremely ambitious, like a 20% reduction in GHG by 2020. The EU also decided that if a global agreement were reached, we would reduce GHG to 30% by 2020. Global emissions need to be 50% lower by 2050, which means developed countries will need to reduce GHG by by 80%! We’re ready, but we need to engage with emerging countries, and we need to help them both financially and technically. We also need to assist the small Pacific Islands, as they are so vulnerable to being completely submerged.

Sarkozy said we have to ensure that the possible success, the agreements, in Copenhagen are actually implemented. A number of organizations are in charge of dealing with this, but I think there should be a global organization devoted to regulating this. We are the first generation (by this he means everyone living today, not just those in our age group) that is clearly and beyond a reasonable doubt aware of the gravity of the situation, and also the last generation that can actually do something about it. The cost of acting is 1% of global GDP, vs. the cost of not acting being as high as 20% of global GDP.* The other interesting aspect of the problem today is that we don’t only have to make decisions for our own countries, but for the whole planet. This introduces a few very interesting global challenges.

*According to The Stern Review, if we don’t act, the overall costs and risks of climate change will be equivalent to losing at least 5% of global GDP each year, now and forever. If a wider range of risks and impacts is taken into account, the estimates of damage could rise to 20% of GDP or more.

OG: It’s great the Sarkozy and Obama are on the same page about Copenhagen.

David: Yes it is, but it’s true that President Obama will be in a better position to negotiate if the ACES bill passes Senate before Copenhagen.

OG: Well, thank you so much for your time, David. I’m looking forward to seeing you again at the conference.

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