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Strauss-Kahn and His Paris Reception

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Posted on Sep 20, 2011
Laurent Gauthier (CC-BY)

By William Pfaff

PARIS—Rather than return to Paris to reinsert himself into its political life, the former presumed Socialist candidate for France’s presidency, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, might better have retreated permanently to Marrakech, where he and his heiress wife have a house and the climate is better. He could work on a book.

In a bitter, carefully staged television appearance Sunday night, on the national station on which his wife was once the star political interviewer, he lamented that his encounter in New York last May with the hotel chambermaid Nafissatou Diallo had destroyed his longed-for “rendezvous with the French people.” He meant that occasion upon which he would have offered them the chance to elect him president of the French Republic.

Whether the French electorate had looked forward to this as much as Mr. Strauss-Kahn did last May is uncertain. But it is unmistakable today—to this not entirely infallible writer—that Mr. Strauss-Kahn is a dead parrot. He has no political future but does not yet seem to understand this. Certainly he was full of resolution when he entered the television studio Sunday evening, confronting the biggest television audience of the year and the impassive interviewer, his wife’s good friend, whose arms were crossed as if holding herself apart from this. She asked the questions as if from an agreed list.

An adviser on the staff of Prime Minister Francois Fillon said afterwards that it had been “a strange performance ... it was as if he has never really grasped the impact this whole affair has had upon the French.” Strauss-Kahn’s position seemed to be that he has been the victim of the affair, first the prey of Diallo, then of the Port Authority and the New York police, then the prosecutor, and then the press.

The police and prosecutor were part of an American judicial system “shockingly” under the influence of money, he said without explanation. “When you are caught in the jaws of this machine, you have the impression that it can crush you. I was humiliated before I could even say a word in my defense.” Then there was Rikers Island, followed by an inconveniently small security apartment in Manhattan, a second bigger one where residents objected to him and to the baying journalists in the street, and finally—what a relief!—a $50,000-a-month Tribeca townhouse, now a New York tourist attraction.


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As for the irresistibly seductive Ms. Diallo, she may have been part of a trap, a plot, he suggested. It was, after all, a French-owned hotel, and who knows what goes on in French hotels.

As for what happened, he said, “we’ll never know now what happened in that hotel room.”

You’d think he knows, but he isn’t saying. Certainly the interviewer did not ask. Ms. Diallo says he raped her. This was one of several occasions in the interview when Mr. Strauss-Kahn was, as they say in Washington, economical with the truth.

The prosecutor dropped the case because, despite the physical evidence in his possession, he did not think he could get a unanimous conviction from a jury. Mr. Strauss-Kahn, waving papers, claimed this meant that he was totally cleared, proven innocent—which is not true. Presumably we will never know more, though, unless the civil cases that have been filed against him in New York and Paris come to trial.

As for the French case, Strauss-Kahn admitted putting his arm around the writer Tristane Banon eight years ago, but dismissed as the “imagination” of a hysterical young girl (she was 24 at the time) her claim that he double-locked the door, tore at her clothes and attempted rape (he was, according to her description, “like a chimpanzee in rut”). After Sunday’s interview, she said bitterly, “What have I to gain from all this? He’s under accusation of rape in two countries and he’s treated like a rock star. A woman who makes a rape complaint in France is treated as a liar.” Ms. Banon is determined to press her case, if necessary through a civil procedure that requires an examining magistrate to be appointed to investigate the matter.

During his interview, Strauss-Kahn let slip that he had made a political deal with the head of the Socialist party, Martine Aubry, who is a candidate for the party nomination for the presidency, presumably that if he came back to France intending to run (has he?) she would yield her place to him. This has set off a fine mess among Socialists, even though they are habituated to wars among Socialist “elephants.”

The party’s main candidates for the nomination are, at present, Ms. Aubry, Segolene Royal and the former secretary-general of the party, Francois Holland. They and the minor candidates debated on television last week. The unfortunately unglamorous Ms. Aubry was unimpressive; Mr. Holland, said to be a raconteur and great company among friends, had nervous perspiration on his upper lip and promised to hire more teachers; and the notoriously glamorous Ms. Royal, who was the Socialist candidate in 2007 and lost, read her introduction from a script. It has been a good week for President Nicolas Sarkozy, who plans a second term.

Visit William Pfaff’s website for more on his latest book, “The Irony of Manifest Destiny: The Tragedy of America’s Foreign Policy” (Walker & Co., $25), at

© 2011 Tribune Media Services, Inc.

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By Xavier Ducreux Brandão, September 23, 2011 at 2:20 pm Link to this comment
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The french “socialists” are ridiculous and dispicable—like all other “socialists” throughout Europe.

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By berniem, September 23, 2011 at 10:51 am Link to this comment

Whats he care, he’s rich!

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By Roger Lafontaine, September 23, 2011 at 8:45 am Link to this comment
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What do you do when the lies don’t work anymore and the truth is just a little too ugly to be seen in public? You retire. Ask any politician - with some exceptions naturally.

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By miroslav, September 22, 2011 at 1:27 pm Link to this comment

Maybe he was the victim?  At least of his

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By frecklefever, September 22, 2011 at 11:19 am Link to this comment


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By Leefeller, September 22, 2011 at 10:43 am Link to this comment

As in all of everything, the French are pigs, just like the Republicans. (absolutism’s are fun)

Entitlements defined by the self proclaimed elite and job creators seem a tad tilted to the right compared to the rest of the huddled masses!

I suspect rape is similar to making a profit at any cost, that is just one more entitlement in the book of opportunism!

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By Aarky, September 22, 2011 at 8:59 am Link to this comment
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That the States Attorney didn’t charge SK with rape smells of a bribe. His excuse was that he didn’t think a jury would find SK guilty. That should have been left to the jury. This article didn’t mention a quote from SK; “I had a moral failure”. It should have also mentioned the quote of Sarkozy, the President of France, “Never leave that man alone in a room with a woman”. SK was given a free pass because of bribery or influence, but in France, he will forever more be thought of as fish bait. The French will admire a man with a mistriss, but they draw the line at rape or attempted rape.

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By JM, September 22, 2011 at 5:55 am Link to this comment

A great article. It has ‘the ring of truth’ and presents the best comedy-circus
drama I’ve attended in a long while.

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By frecklefever, September 21, 2011 at 11:35 am Link to this comment


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By Robespierre115, September 20, 2011 at 9:16 pm Link to this comment

Who knows. The Italians continue to tolerate Berlusconi…

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By El_Pinguino, September 20, 2011 at 5:26 pm Link to this comment

I am not at all sure what to make of this case.

I do find it very very difficult to believe that a woman who is employed in a hotel, who probably has a time limit for each room she cleans would consent to have sex with someone she has never met… does not know well…... and risk her job. Are you kidding me?? Let me see if I understand the events:

A man walks out of the bathroom with only a towel around his waist and finds a cleaning person who’s immediate reaction is to drop to her knees and perfom oral sex on him.

I do not find it difficult to believe that power and influence got Kahn off the hook. ‘Cause that happens all the time.

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By PatrickHenry, September 20, 2011 at 4:22 pm Link to this comment

  I hope they met Kahn with fruit and vegetables.

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