July 04, 2011

Dominique Strauss-Kahn

Dominique Strauss-Kahn

He was up, he was down, and now he’s up again. Like an inflatable punching dummy, Strauss-Kahn keeps bouncing back. Two months ago, he was on top of the world. He headed the globe’s most important financial institution, the International Monetary Fund. Polls rated him as the Socialist Party’s best candidate to defeat incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy for president next year. What more could a man want? Well, hotel maids, apparently. The New York police deprived him of his livelihood as IMF head, nearly eliminated him from serious contention for the French presidency, and cost him around $250,000 a month to keep to his bail terms. (They may also have caused him a few sticky conversations with his wife, who among other inconveniences reportedly picked up his costs.)

But suddenly the cops discover that their star witness won’t stand up to scrutiny before a jury. So they ease his bail conditions and give every indication they are going to drop the case against him when it comes before the court on July 18. He’s had a tough time, paraded in shackles before the press and briefly confined to The Tombs and Rikers Island. He can be thankful, though, that he wasn’t among almost one hundred CIA detainees whose torture allegations the Justice Department decided not to examine a day before the cops shared with The New York Times their doubts about the character of his Guinean accuser. If times have been bad for Strauss-Kahn, they are worse for the American justice system.

Here in France, meanwhile, the chattering classes are predicting a DSK resurrection. Socialist Party apparatchiks are behaving like petty mafiosi learning that the Godfather they thought they had buried is back. His revival is forcing them to regroup to make it possible for him to return in triumph. Surprisingly, he is still their strongest contender to defeat Sarkozy and the National Front leader Marine Le Pen. The deadline for declaring candidacy in the newly minted party primaries is July 13, which is well before the cops are likely to return DSK’s passport. When he descends from the clouds to touch French soil like de Gaulle in 1944, he may reclaim the crown that was surely his before he had his unfortunate hotel-room encounter. (There is no doubt there was some kind of encounter, as Clinton-like stains on the maid’s clothes attest.) Because the primary system the socialists have introduced has no legal force, DSK will have the option of declaring he was robbed and demand a party conference to make him their candidate. Many socialists are telling the press they would applaud his victory.

Will we see Strauss-Kahn, yesterday’s mug and jailbird, in the Élysée Palace? If I were a bookie, I’d put it at about three to one. With his arrest record, though, the State Department might not give him a visa to visit the Obamas in Washington. The White House maids can be thankful for that much.



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