The second problem arose in October. [Laurent Fabius], fresh from an oratorical triumph at the Socialist Party Congress in Toulouse, took on Mayor Jacques Chirac of Paris in a nationally televised debate. Chirac, a former premier who is leader of the right-wing Gaullist party, hopes to win control of enough seats in the next Parliament to force [Francois Mitterrand] to name him premier in March. His ultimate goal is the presidency in 1988.
Fabius, expected to outperform Chirac, turned shrill and aggressive during the evening, two qualities that the French do not like in a president. A calm and reasonable Chirac looked far more presidential by the end of the debate. It was a disaster for Fabius.
Mitterrand did not boost Fabius' status with a story he told at a reception in Pointe-a-Pitre, Guadeloupe. Surrounded by journalists asking if he had been bothered by his differences with the premier, Mitterrand replied that the week's events reminded him of an experiment that had been carried out in the United States.