King makers and smoke-filled rooms
Posted by Smokey Stover on January 07, 2005
In Reply to: King makers and smoke-filled rooms posted by ESC on January 06, 2005
: : : : : : What is the current English equivalent of the French "éminence grise"? The power behind the throne? A gray emminence? An "éminence grise" implies the existence of whom? The figure-head? The straw man?
: : : : : : Finally, can anyone give an actual example of such an association in the modern polotical scenario: a "éminence grise" and a figure-head performing together?
: : : : : : Thanks.
: : : : : : Jose Carlos
: : : : : Grey suits
: : : :
: : : : éminence grise is a very well-known phrase, certainly in the UK.
: : : : An example from (fairly) recently might be Prime Minister Tony Blair and his ex-'Special Adviser' Alastair Campbell.
: : : : DFG
: : : One might also consider the Bush/ Cheney team here in the US to be such.
: : : SR
: : In the U.S., "king maker" is a term used by those in politics who are behind the scenes selecting and promoting a candidate for office.
: Also, the real political decisions are said to be made in "smoke-filled rooms" rather than in a public arena such as a legislative floor. In Kentucky there really was a smoke-filled backroom -- the bar in the back of Flynn's restaurant in Frankfort. It's closed now. A colorful part of our past gone.
The smoke-filled back rooms, inhabited by men wearing green eye-shades, were a reportorial convention for the domination of party politics by insiders. By controlling the campaign money they kept the party office-holders on a leash, or in line. That more or less ended in 1972, when George McGovern, as head of a Democratic Party Commission, recommended reforms that made candidates more independent of "the bosses." But since they still needed money, the reform (adopted by both parties) now made them dependent on contributors with deep pockets (corporations, trade associations, unions) who needed to own or rent a Member of Congress.
OED: L'éminence grise: "A term originally applied to Père Joseph (1577-1638), the confidential agent of Cardinal Richelieu; now extended to describe one who wields real though not titular control." Presumably the term came about because Richelieu, as a cardinal, wore red vestments and was known as "L'eminence rouge." So his like-minded "secretary," who was able to shade into the background, was known as "L'éminence grise." The appellation may also have seemed apt because Pére Joseph was also a churchman, although as a Franciscan he wore less striking garb than Richelieu. SS