When President Bush's popularity sagged, White House chief of staff John Sununu had to go. That failed to distract anyone who disliked the president. What bothered them was the recession, not Mr. Sununu's brusque manner. Still, almost any president would have done the same thing. In fact, the president of France, Francois Mitterrand, just did.
Since the local elections last month repudiated the ruling Socialists, allowing them a scant 18.3 percent of the vote, all France was waiting for him to replace Prime Minister Edith Cresson. Now he has. It won't matter. Unemployment is at 9.9 percent. When it goes down, Mr. Mitterrand's subterranean standing will start back up; not till then.
In the French system, the premier is an appointee of the elected president, not the leader of a parliamentary system. Mr. Mitterrand made Mrs. Cresson the first woman premier in French history last May. It was just as easy to make her an ex-premier. Her appointment was meant to shock the party into modernity and regain its support. Instead, her tart tongue, which had been so charming as a mere cabinet minister, became nationally embarrassing. More important, the economy did not revive and jobs did not bloom.