Roger Cohen, columnist for the Times' international edition, is going temporarily transatlantic, filling in for regular columnist Nicholas Kristof, who is on book leave.
His first fill-in column, "Sarkozy's New Order" (Times Select $ required) reminded Times Watch of his past reportorial slant, including a May 2005 gem in which Cohen speculated on how a possible credit crunch might convince ignorant lower-class Republicans to stop voting for so-called "values" and vote for the party that represents their genuine, economic interests - you know, Democrats.
Cohen sticks to his foreign policy beat in his Thursday column, ostensibly about French president Nicolas Sarkozy.
"So a warming of relations is good news if you believe, as I do, that when the trans-Atlantic bond is broken, the world grows more unstable. Still, the ironies of the amiable Maine picnic were hard to swallow. On one end of the corn on the cob you had a French president who seems determined to make his office more accountable, more accessible, more open, and invoking American-style checks and balances to achieve that.
"On the other, you had an American president who, in the name of the war on terror, has, with Dick Cheney, been bent on placing the authority of the White House as far as possible beyond the offsetting power of the legislative and judicial branches.
"Arthur Schlesinger Jr., the late historian, found in Nixon the villain of his 1973 book 'The Imperial Presidency,' but thought Bush had gone further still in pursuit of a Caesarist democracy.
"Schlesinger discerned in Nixon 'the all-purpose invocation of 'national security,' the insistence on executive secrecy, the withholding of information from Congress, the attempted intimidation of the press.'
"Sound familiar? The Bush presidency has shown contempt for due process, placed 'illegal enemy combatants' in unacceptable limbo, fired politically recalcitrant federal prosecutors, dreamed up a bizarre oversight-free definition of the vice presidency, resorted to warrantless surveillance and disdained Congress' constitutional role."