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"Romania could very well implode due to so much stupidity"

Recorded by EMILIA OLESCU (translated by Cosmin Ghidoveanu)
English Section /

"Romania could very well implode due to so much stupidity"

(Interview with Theodor Paleologu, a candidate of the PMP in the presidential elections)

"The president is a kind of teacher that knows how to listen"

Romania has rarely seen such mediocrity, incompetence, and good-for-nothings in the Parliament and government, says Theodor Paleologu, a candidate in the presidential elections from the PMP party.

He told us, in an interview: "The promotion of incompetence has reached unimaginable levels - generalized incompetence - it is a miracle that this country still exists, it could have imploded due to so much incompetence and stupidity that is being promoted".

Among other things, Mr. Paleologu told us: "Mrs. Viorica Dăncilă has clung to her position and her former government partner is cut from the same cloth as her - Călin Popescu-Tăriceanu, an old courtesan who has now been seduced by her opportunistic lover Victor Ponta".

The president is a kind of teacher who knows how to listen, says Theodor Paleologu: "I strongly believe in that facet of the presidency and that is why I have accepted to run for president, because I have the impression that I am that kind of person who can talk about values that can hold together a society, about heritage, about how we exploit it, about Romania's role in the world".

Reporter: How would you describe the current political situation and what do you think should happen to resolve the deadlock we are in?

Theodor Paleologu: I think is deplorable and it is the result of the worthlessness of the main players involved. Because Mrs. Dăncilă has clung to her position, even though the PSD had a resounding loss in the elections in the European parliament. I would like to bring up the example of Greece. I am not at all a fan of Tsipras (ed. note: Alexis Tsipras, former Greek prime-minister), but after the European parliament elections Tsipras had the decency to hold early elections and lost, but with an honorable score. That is how a responsible political leader operates, when they're not the puppet of a convicted felon, like Mrs. Dăncilă has been. She has clung to her position and her former government partner is cut from the same cloth aş her - Călin Popescu-Tăriceanu, an old courtesan who has now been seduced by her opportunistic lover Victor Ponta. Does Tăriceanu believe that he is saving his political destiny in doing so? I simply think that Victor Ponta is using Tăriceanu's desperation.

Reporter: Do you think it is possible that the representative of a party that has barely crossed the entry threshold could win in the presidential elections?

Theodor Paleologu: Yes, because it is not about the PMP. What it is about is Theodor Paleologu and his project. The presidential elections are very special wherever they are part of the system, they are the most surprising ones, there are always surprises in the presidential elections, and in some cases those surprises are major. I will give you an example - Edouard Balladur, in France, in 1995, had over 60% in the polls, and in the first round he ended up with 18%. And that was Edouard Balladur, a great prime-minister, an absolutely admirable man. Iohannis, who can't hold a candle to Edouard Balladur, has some percentages that will melt away in an electoral confrontation.

Reporter: When and how did the idea of running for president come to you and what do you think qualifies you for being president?

Theodor Paleologu: I got a phone call in July. Eugen Tomac and Traian Băsescu, by reviewing some polls, reached the conclusion that I could be a serious option in the elections, because in truth, I've come out really well in the polls in question. I have to tell you that I was the first one to be surprised. I've been teaching for seven years, I haven't been in the Parliament for three years now, I have turned down every kind of political offer. I want to teach for as long as I live. If I get to live as long as my father did, I will have another 40 years ahead of me and I want to teach every day. That is my will and I thought that the presidential elections and then the presidential position fit with a kind of mission, or maybe with teaching, because in my view, a president can be a teacher. He won't position himself as a teacher, let's be clear, because a true professor is the one that listens, a very good teacher listens most of the time. Let's say that he talks 40% and listens 60% of the time. A good professor can make the others talk, make them be autonomous, think on their own. That is the biggest problem of the Romanian education - that it doesn't teach the students to think on their own, to be independently autonomous, from a moral, intellectual, professional point of view.

Reporter: So, you were made a proposal to run, at first. And then, who helped you make that decision?

Theodor Paleologu: I am a man who asks for advice, and the first people I have asked for advice have been some very dear friends of mine, one who is very old and another who is my age - 46. The elderly one is a great Moldovan nobleman, Radu Miclescu, and a man with whom I have often consulted, to me he represents the world that used to exist before communism, and he was very enthusiastic, he encouraged me. And then, Petre Guran, another good friend of mine, Cătălin Avramescu, Sever Voinescu and obviously my family, my close friends, they generally advised me the same thing.

Reporter: Traian Băsescu claims that you have an additional elegance in this electoral battle. Do you think that elegance brings votes?

Theodor Paleologu: Obviously, Traian Băsescu wasn't referring to clothes. I think that honesty is very important, respect for others is very important. If I am sometimes biting, it's not because I don't respect the other political players in Romania, but I am certain that we need to point out what doesn't work, and to call a spade a spade. If something is stupid, then that's the word to use for it.

Reporter: If you won, what would be the first three things you would try to do? What do you think this country is missing?

Theodor Paleologu: The first thing to do would be a new government, because we can't go on with Viorica Dăncilă. A major coalition is needed which should include the USR, the PNL, the PMP and Plus, as part of a new government.

If we are talking about elections, then the early elections are of course desirable, but we need to see if the Parliament will vote in that regard. So far, there is no precedent for early elections, even though I think an adjustment of the structure of the Parliament is needed as it no longer fits the mood of the public.

Reporter: What would be your main criticism against the current president?

Theodor Paleologu: The fact that he has kept the PNL away from the government. I mean the party that supported him was the party that was sidelined by Klaus Iohannis. By promoting unqualified individuals in the PNL, he caused the disaster of 2016 in the local and parliamentary elections. Klaus Iohannis imposed Alina Gorghiu because he is also that type of leader who needs collaborators and supporters who are weaker than him and that is the logic behind his support of Alina Gorghiu and there was this tandem, that a many people used to laugh about, the Blaga - Gorghiu tandem. I am proud that the same pair has proposed my exclusion from the PNL, after all, it's only natural that an authentic National Liberal would be excluded by fake liberals.

Reporter: How did the PNL end up not having any qualified people?

Theodor Paleologu: By kicking out the good ones! That way, they have gotten to the point where they no longer have natural candidates.

Reporter: Which one of the current candidates would you like to end up in a final confrontation with?

Theodor Paleologu: It would be easiest with Dăncilă, but I don't want that, for the health of the nation. The same as it is with Klaus Iohannis - they are two people who have the same thing in common, they are incapable of speaking in public without notes. As for Barna (ed. note: Dan Barna, the candidate of USR-Plus in the presidential elections), I find him more likable than the other two, we are closer in age, I don't think he is ready for this, but he is more witty than Iohannis and clearly more so than Mrs. Dăncilă.

Reporter: What do you think would be the things that matter in a competition like this? Because the personal ability of a candidate is less important, at times, as was visible when Ponta lost to Iohannis.

Theodor Paleologu: Yes, he lost, but he deserved to lose, because the balance sheet was negative. Furthermore, he was insolent and didn't figure out how to exploit Iohannis's constant silence, he jumped the shark. Iohannis' perception was better than that of Ponta, who had a disastrous perception as a plagiarist. At the time Iohannis was a fresh figure, but that can only carry you so far. The job description for president also mentions that you have to say something every now and then. Meaning that the president is a creature that speaks. When it doesn't, then we have a problem.

The speech about values, community ethics, in that regard the president has an ethic and intellectual dimension, he needs to inspire the nation. I strongly believe in this facet of the presidency and that is the main reason why I have accepted to run, because I feel like I am in that position of a man who can speak about values that can hold together a society, about legacy, about the manner of exploiting it, about diplomacy, about Romania's role in the world, these are essential topics I feel.

When you think about the kind of people that lead Romania, you feel like the personal qualities have no relevance at all. But rarely have so many mediocre people been promoted to important positions. The promotion of incompetence has reached unimaginable levels - incompetence at every level, generalized incompetence - it is a miracle that this country somehow still exists, it could have imploded from so much incompetence and stupidity that's being promoted. Nevertheless, the ideas or projects of the man who runs for president also have a role, projects which need to take into account the functions that the President has based on the Constitution.

Reporter: What projects are you proposing?

Theodor Paleologu: There are a few areas where the president can do something. First of all, diplomacy and foreign policy, and it is very important for the president to be familiar with those areas or to know who to ask. A leader doesn't have to know everything, but they need to know enough to ask. We have this flaw of refusing to ask questions. Look at the advisers of president Iohannis - they area amazingly weak. Why? Because a weak leader will choose weak partners.

There are also functions that concern public order, but we shouldn't become excessive. There are two exaggerations that we keep hearing in the public space. One is that of Barna, who says that had he been president the tragedy in Caracal wouldn't have happened and another where Iohannis' supporters claim he has no powers in that regard. That is not true! The president does have responsibilities concerning public order, but they can't prevent all disasters. But on the other hand, he can call the authorities who are competent in the matter to task. He can ask for answers to very precise questions.

There is also the economic sector - very important -, where the president can set some major guidelines FOR THE majority that supports the government in the Parliament. But I think that one of the biggest problems in Romania is the unpredictability and instability in matters of legislation, the fact that new rules appear that cancel the previous ones.

Reporter: You spoke about extreme incompetence, about maximum worthlessness., both on a Government and Parliament level. Do you think there is any chance of you "saving" us?

Theodor Paleologu: I am not a salvationist! I do not believe in the savior myth! But the bad thing is that in the Romanian political tradition, there is a recurrent savior's myth, which is a mess. People wait to be saved and then they get disappointed. We've seen that in the recent period and in the period between the two World Wars.

Reporter: You claim that the president can represent a set of values. Which ones would you promote or support?

Theodor Paleologu: I was speaking earlier about diplomacy. The president coordinates diplomacy, especially through the appointments he makes. He is present in the European Council, he represents Romania in NATO, thus represents Romania and I think that here is an absolutely essential dimension which the current president doesn't fulfill. In my view, an absolutely fundamental sector is everything that concerns education, access to culture, patrimony, so that is where I plan to get involved. I think that the major Romanian problems all come from education. Much of the ineffectiveness stems from the inadequate training in high school and college. The report on education presented by Iohannis about "educated Romania" is a cobbled together package of banalities that you can't do anything significant with. There is no talk about the goals of education. In my view, there are two fundamental purposes: autonomy and passing a legacy. Autonomy includes intellectual self-reliance, critical thinking, the ability to argue, to support a point of view, it is very important, because the pupils and students in Romanian schools and universities do not learn that. Critical thinking is discouraged, intellectual autonomy is repressed. The moral self-reliance and the autonomy of the citizen represent elements which unfortunately, are insufficiently or not at all represented in the Romanian education. The third aspect is represented by the professional self-reliance, meaning those who graduate from school or college should be actually qualified to do something. For instance, there are people who leave the Academy of Economic Studies and are incapable of doing a balance sheet.

And the other element concerns legacy, the scientific, cultural heritage, not just of a country, but of a civilization. I think that these elements are fundamental and complementary, but I think that those of us who approach the issue of education correctly are very few in numbers.

I think that the notion of heritage includes education, but also the environment, democracy, resources, a number of things. My favorite hero in the Troy cycle was Aeneas. As a child I liked Ulysses most, as he was an adventurer, smart, cunning. Since then, I've taken a liking to Aeneas, because Aeneas takes his father on his back and his son by the hand. It is a very beautiful picture of continuity and solidarity between the generations. I think that even when the president can not concretely solve a problem, he has the duty of saying the truth, of drawing attention, to show that something is wrong when it comes to the promoting of the incompetent, of corruption etc.

Reporter: Do you have a "draft" team with which you could achieve your goals?

Theodor Paleologu: Of course! It is one of my main concerns at this time. I have several names, from various fields, some have already agreed to join me. There are a few areas in which a president needs advisers - foreign policy, security, education, culture, cults, the economy, the business sector, the diaspora and the civil society and in every area I have very good advisers. In some cases I can't reveal names, because we are talking about diplomats or military men, but they are people like Petre Guran, Şerban Sturza, Şerban Cioculescu, they are names of remarkable people.

I think that it is very important that when you win the government you know precisely what you need to do in the first 100 days and I think that a serious candidate in the presidential elections will think from the start about his potential partners, including those who don't support him. And I think it's very important for the president to have at least one adviser to keep him from going astray. It is a very important matter of reflection for me - the pathology of power and presidentialism.

Reporter: I think that many of us have the following sensation - that over the last 29 years we have gone from bad to worse in terms of government, and in every election we've had our hopes dashed. What is your opinion on the next term? Do you think things could be worse than they currently are?

Theodor Paleologu: Yes! Şerban Nicolae, Codrin Ştefănescu are worse options than Viorica Dăncilă. Let's not kid ourselves that things couldn't be worse.

Reporter: In many of your statements you mention France. Please tell us more about your relationship to that country...

Theodor Paleologu: I arrived in France at 16 and I am also a French citizen. I was a member in the right wing party in France, and the education I got there was very important. My Ph. D. is on a topic of political theory - the Notion of political theology, used by a German political thinker.

I watch very carefully the French press. When I used to live in Germany, I obviously was watching the politics in Germany.

Reporter: How long did you stay there?

Theodor Paleologu: Three years.

Reporter: What did you do there?

Theodor Paleologu: AI got a position in 2002, which was renewed in 2003, when I left as an ambassador to Copenhagen, to a small American university.

Reporter: What did you teach over there?

Theodor Paleologu: Philosophy - that was my subject - political philosophy, but every one of us had the obligation to start from a shared curriculum. We would study Homer, Virgil, Dante, Aristotle, Plato. I liked it a lot and that is what I am still doing now at the Paleologu House - I like to teach Homer, Plato, Aristotle, the great books, which are superb. To me it is a delight to teach these books, it fills me with great energy. It is a passion, that is why I don't even like politics. I really don't like it, because it drives me away from these things. I don't want to be a deputy or a senator, but the president can also have a professor side to him, ask the really important questions, to listen, he has to inspire, to raise the level of discussion, which is terribly low with us. I think I can do that.

Reporter: We wish you luck!

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