International: Winning with Promises

The Paris pavements were icy that day, and bulky, baggy-eyed Rene Mayer, on his way to the National Assembly to plead support for a new government of France, slipped and staggered. Said he: "In my place, an ancient Roman would take it as an ill omen and go home. But modern courtesy forbids it. I believe they are waiting for me in this House." They were, but there too the ground was slippery.

Three men—a Socialist, a Gaullist and a Popular Republican—had each been asked to form a government, and failed. Now Radical Socialist Mayer (see box), sought a foothold by praising...