If Douthat is to be believed, Marine Le Pen, the leader of the National Front and the would-be president of France, models herself after Gen. Charles de Gaulle. She mounts a compelling populist critique of a dysfunctional Europe that is embarking on a dangerous experiment in mass immigration. And while her positions may seem “controversial,” they are actually “straightforwardly correct.”
This bears bafflingly little resemblance to the Marine Le Pen that I, and countless other observers of France, have known for many years. Le Pen, to me, is the leader of a party that has long sympathized with the Vichy regime. Though she has made a big show of “de-toxifying” the National Front, the promises and statements she has made in her latest presidential campaign remain unabashedly extreme: She wants to ban Muslim women from wearing the headscarf—not just in schools or universities, but in the streets. She has refused to accept her country’s responsibility for the deportation of tens of thousands of Jews in July 1942, giving the lie to the idea that she has finally broken with her family’s nostalgia for the past. And she is so open about her admiration for authoritarian bullies that she has poured lavish praise on Donald Trump and traveled to the Kremlin to pay her respects to Vladimir Putin.