Archive for the ‘France: DSK affair’ Category

The day before yesterday I had a post on Roger Cohen’s inane column in the NYT, that lauded Nicolas Sarkozy and predicted he would win the upcoming presidential election (this on the same day as Le Monde’s headline story on the defeatist climate in Sarkozy’s camp and which was echoed in a report on the France 2 evening news). Other cognoscenti of French politics, e.g. Art Goldhammer, shared my view of Cohen’s absurd column. Now there’s a piece that makes Cohen’s look brilliant by comparison. L’auteur du crime: Martin Peretz, editor-in-chief emeritus of The New Republic. The subject: the DSK affair. I will admit that I am not a fan of Mr. Peretz and normally avoid his writings like the plague. I am an anti-fan of his and have been so for three decades—and I have a lot of company on this (e.g. see here)—, ever since his cheerleading of Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon led me not to renew my subscription to TNR for ten years. Even when I started up the sub again I tried my best to avoid Peretz (not always easy) and his manic obsession with Israel, which borders on pathology. I am quite sure that Peretz has never written an article or anything that did not have as its focus Israel or something related to his ethno-confessional group. For someone who has shown little sympathy for the identity politics of others, e.g. Afro-Americans, he is certainly preoccupied with his own identity. Then there was Peretz’s polluting the pages of TNR—a once venerable voice of American liberalism—with certain odious right-wing journalists he hired over the years (e.g. Fred Barnes, Michael Kelly) but I won’t get into that.

In any case, Peretz’s commentary on the DSK affair—a has-been subject by now—, entitled “Edward J. Epstein Makes History…Again,” was quite simply the most breathtakingly idiotic piece of bullcrap that I have read in weeks. It left me agape. I’m used to eye-rolling nonsense from MP but this was on another level altogether and from the get go. Voilà the opening phrase

I was reminded of this devastating analysis of the sloppy case against Dominique Strauss-Kahn when I read that his wife, Anne Sinclair, is taking over the French version of The Huffington Post.

The “devastating analysis” MP is referring to is Edward J. Epstein’s widely read investigative report on the DSK affair in The New York Review of Books. This is now my 44th post on the DSK affair but I didn’t have one on Epstein’s report—though maybe should have—, which I thought was an irresponsible piece of pseudo-investigative journalism that the NYRB should have never published. And the whole thing was quickly revealed to be bulldust, as almost every mystery or question mark put forth by Epstein has been answered or put to rest. And Epstein’s conspiracy insinuating—hinting at a possible UMP/Sarkozy plot—was laughably preposterous. For Martin Peretz to call EJE’s report “devastating” in late January 2012 shows him to be not only behind the curve but also completely à côté de la plaque.

Continuing on Anne Sinclair, MP informs the reader that

Sinclair is now being dissed by her colleagues at Le Monde for sticking by and up for her husband in New York’s great spring celebrity scandal after he was charged with raping a maid at an overrated Manhattan hotel.

MP is referring here to a quote from an editor at Le Monde—a partner of the French HuffPo—in an item he linked to, who simply observed that “When [Sinclair] publicly compared the DSK affair to the Dreyfus affair, she lost her objectivity.” This is “dissing”? It’s one thing to stand by one’s man but to compare his legal problems in a sordid sexual affair to those of Captain Dreyfus and the French army? I think it was Mme Sinclair who was doing the dissing here, not only to Dreyfus’ memory but to the French Republic.

MP does let us know that

The truth is, however, that at the beginning I tended to believe the accusations, having heard from friends in Paris that Strauss-Kahn had the reputation of being a lecher. One lady-friend actually told me that he had followed her out of Yom Kippur services a few years back at the grand synagogue—the Rothschild synagogue!—on the rue des Victoires.

I am quite sure of the veracity of MP’s lady-friend’s story. Everyone has similar DSK stories second and third hand. And first. E.g. a lady-friend of mine has told me of the time DSK came on to her and in an unsubtle way, and in front of a few hundred people plus her husband to boot (not at a synagogue but the Institut du Monde Arabe…). But then MP continues with this

the D.A.’s tactics gnawed at me. And, then, Bernard Henri-Levy defended the accused, and Levy has a lot of ethical credit with me.

Oh please, spare me. My views on BHL are sufficiently well known (e.g. here, here, and here) that I do not need to state them here. Two things, though. 1. Anyone who gives ethical credit to BHL cannot have such credit with me (see the links to my posts) and 2. Such ethical credit can certainly not be accorded to BHL in view of his défense à outrance of DSK after his arrest, which was so uncompromising and arrogant in tone—even as the accounts of DSK’s satyriasis were being detailed in the public square—that BHL’s American publisher had to tell him—and I have this on good authority—that he risked losing all credit in the US as a consequence and should therefore STFU (and which BHL dutifully did).

MP gets in a few digs at D.A. Cyrus Vance Jr. and then offers this

Who really knows? Dominique and Anne are on the left, and he was just about slated to be the Socialist candidate against Sarkozy’s re-election bid. Still, the left had nothing but venom for S-K.

“S-K”? Excuse me, Mr. Peretz, but Mr. Strauss-Kahn is universally known as DSK. Absolutely everyone outside France knows this by now. So where does this S-K come from? Vous êtes vraiment à côté de la plaque. But also, what is this about the left and venom, particularly as DSK was/is himself a man of the left (albeit close to the center)? And as the Socialist party—the dominant party of the French left—was getting ready to crown DSK as its candidate until the fateful encounter with Nafissatou Diallo? If one has in mind the hard and extreme left—PG, PCF, NPA et al—and intellos on that end of the spectrum, then one needs to be clear about this. But who cares about those people anyway?

Following from this MP gives the clincher. The money quote, which the whole piece has been building up to

I have my own suspicions about the sources of this hatred. OK, laugh at me: but it is because he and his wife are passionate Zionists, public Zionists, a sin among the progressives of Paris.

There you have it. DSK—who was the most popular political personality in France until last May 15th and the left’s champion to beat Sarkozy—was in fact hated—who knew?—and because he was…a Zionist. Honestly, this one takes the cake. The only thing one can say here is that MP made this up. He invented it in his turbulent head. He read this nowhere and it is not possible that he heard it from any person knowledgeable about French politics or society. Not even BHL would have told him such an inept connerie. MP has not a shred of evidence to back up his assertion. None whatever. He could not credibly defend this if his life depended on it. In point of fact, DSK and his wife, whose Jewishness has hardly been a secret, never spoke publicly about Zionism and such was not the subject of articles or reports in the mainstream media. DSK did express his warm sentiments toward Israel in a Jewish magazine back in 1991 but outside the Jewish community his words here were known only to those who consulted or stumbled across Arab-oriented or anti-Semitic web sites in the obscure precincts of the Internet. DSK and Mme Sinclair’s Jewishness and putative Zionism were a political non-issue, including “among the progressives of Paris,” whoever they may be. À propos, it would be helpful if MP named a few of these “progressives.” In fact, I defy him to do so. Just three names, please, of known “progressives”—a term that is not commonly used in the French political lexicon, BTW—who had it out for DSK on account of his “Zionism.” It is true that DSK did have detractors on the hard left—e.g. Jean-Luc Mélenchon was particularly outspoken—but it was because he was a libéral in their eyes—a neoliberal—and whose big sin was heading the IMF (and despite the fact that under DSK’s stewardship the IMF shifted away from its neoliberal Washington Consensus orientation). In the eyes of the gauche de la gauche, DSK was insufficiently gauche. They talked about him the way US lefties whine on about Obama. It’s politics, Mr. Peretz. It is not about Jews. Really, not everyone who is disliked and so happens to be Jewish is disliked because he or she is a Jew.

MP further drives the nail into his coffin with this

Anyway, it isn’t as if the French political class is pure. Sarkozy, for example. Or Mitterand [sic], for that matter.

What on earth is this supposed to mean?! Pure about what? Affairs with women not their wives? On this, Sarko is a well-known horndog and Mitterrand was a grand séducteur. So what? Neither is or was known to serially hit on women who did not wish to be hit on, to be a regular patron at clubs échangistes, or to frequently receive sexual services in return for monetary remuneration (and on the eve of a presidential campaign no less). Or is it something about Jews? Here, Sarkozy is considered by many French Jews—who viscerally like him—to almost be France’s first Jewish president (in the same way as Bill Clinton was seen by his many black American fans as having been America’s first black president). As for Mitterrand, he was a longtime friend of the Jewish community and Israel (and despite the zones d’ombre in his past and some sulfurous friendships). And BTW, Mitterrand is spelled with two Rs (not one).

MP, after reiterating his admiration of E.J. Epstein’s discredited report, concludes with this

Also try mentioning Edward Jay Epstein’s proven thesis, James Jesus Angleton: Was He Right?, available at Amazon and on Kindle, at a dinner party. The guests will think you a nut case.

Mr. Peretz: the nut case c’est vous.

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DSK: the end

Le Monde this weekend has an article on Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s now erstwhile hardcore supporters, who have abandoned him in droves following the denouement of the Tristane Banon affair—where Mlle Banon’s version of what happened was confirmed—and the latest revelations of DSK’s eventual implication in group sex rings with prostitutes, some of whom may have been legal minors, and which are under judicial investigation (see here, here, and here). Really sleazy stuff. And all while he was managing director of the IMF and preparing his run for the French presidency… No one believes DSK’s denials anymore. BHL, Jack Lang, Robert Badinter & Co are nowhere to be seen on this; even Anne Sinclair now seems to be pulling away, remaining in their sumptuous riad in Marrakech while her husband cools his heels alone at their equally sumptuous flat on the Place des Vosges. Ex-strauss-kahniens are feeling bitter, angry, and betrayed, and say they want nothing more to do with their former hero. I feel no sympathy whatever for them. I first started to hear stories about DSK in the mid-90s, and I was hardly well-introduced in political circles at the time. They’re like the French intellectuals who “discovered” the horrors of the Stalin era and the realities of Soviet communism only in the 1970s, after the publication of Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago. As if nothing in Solzhenitysn’s oeuvre hadn’t been known for decades. Des histoires bien françaises…

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[update below]

The reaction of the French press—and of  public opinion, so it appears anecdotally (no actual polls out yet)—to DSK’s TF1 interview has been harshly negative. Now today’s Canard Enchaîné has a devastating front page commentary on the Socialist party’s one-time favorite. No one in the French press skewers politicians as ferociously as Le Canard’s editorialists. And with such consistently brilliant headlines. Le Canard has a minimalist web site and with almost no content, but does reproduce the front page. One may read the commentary (in tiny print, though readable) here. On p.2 we learn that even (ex-)strauss-kahniens in the PS were privately dismayed by their (ex-) champion’s performance on Sunday. Dur, dur. Haven’t heard from BHL yet.

UPDATE: TNS Sofres has a poll out (September 22) on public reaction to the TF1 interview: for 31% it lowered their image of DSK, for 56% it was unchanged, and 4% said the interview improved it. It’s hard to fully interpret this, as one would need to know how these people felt about DSK before the interview, i.e. how many of that 31% already had a negative image of him. It is clear in any case that the interview did not improve DSK’s image, so as an opération de com’ it was a failure.

The poll also has the percentage of Frenchmen who think there may have been a plot. Affligeant.

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DSK on TF1

[update below]

He was better than I thought he would be and said what he had to say, from his standpoint at least. Claire Chazal was also better than anticipated, as she asked him straight off the bat what happened in suite 2806, though this being France, did not press him with follow-up questions, try to nail him, or play gotcha. DSK, clearly understanding his problems with public opinion, was contrite and admitted his “faute morale” (moral failing) more than once. But evoking the possibility of a “piège” (trap) or “complot” (plot) was both gratuitous and ridiculous. It was also a bit rich for him to express shock at the role money plays in the American judicial system, given that he was precisely a beneficiary of this aspect of the system. If it hadn’t been for his wife’s money, he’d likely still be in Riker’s Island. I doubt he was being untruthful in anything he said about what happened with Nafissatou Diallo, including his assertion that it was not a “rapport tarifé” (i.e. a sexual act performed for a fixed or explicit monetary price). In the literal, juridical sense I am sure he was telling the truth.

We will certainly never know what happened between the two but this is the only scenario that makes any sense to me: Nafissatou D. turned occasional tricks with moneyed clients of the hotel and sought the assignment to DSK’s suite for this purpose (and it may not have been their first meeting, given that he had stayed at the hotel before). Nothing is negotiated or even said in these encounters. The act is performed, the chamber maid leaves the room, the client leaves a generous “tip” ($200, or whatever the going rate is for these things in midtown Manhattan), and she comes back to collect it. But this time DSK stiffed her, or didn’t leave enough (maybe he discovered he didn’t have enough cash in his wallet; he had neglected to go to an ATM the day before, or something like that). ND was furious and spontaneously concocted the story, without thinking through the consequences that this would have for her. Once her superiors at the hotel took charge she got caught in the engrenage. After seeing her overly theatrical interview on ABC, I knew she was b.s.-ing.

I have no idea if DSK’s TF1 performance will change perceptions. I hope not, as he doesn’t deserve it. The interview may be viewed here. During the interview DSK waved the Recommendation for Dismissal of the New York County DA’s Office. Here it is.

UPDATE: Art Goldhammer points out—correctly—that DSK’s spin on the DA’s report distorted its meaning. This was clear to me when I relistened to that part of the interview after finding the report and reading it. The reaction in the French media on DSK’s performance has thankfully been mostly negative, with many seeing it as a PR operation and lacking sincerity. The former is definitely the case. As for the latter, perhaps. I don’t know. It’s a matter of perception. E.g. the NYT’s article made reference to DSK’s “gritted teeth,” which is a purely subjective interpretation on the NYT reporter’s part. I didn’t notice DSK’s teeth. I don’t know what else he could have said in the interview, particularly in view of the judicial inquiries that are still underway.

Art Goldhammer also critiqued Claire Chazal’s lame questioning. Yes, of course, but I was pleasantly surprised that she even asked DSK what happened in suite 2806. This being France, I wasn’t expecting that. One question Chazal could have asked is how DSK plans to deal with N.Diallo’s civil suit. Will he go back to New York and testify if summoned? Il n’est pas sorti de l’auberge, ça c’est sûr…

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DSK’s illness

Michel Rocard has said what needed to be said (for a top-ranked Socialist, at least): Dominique Strauss-Kahn “clearly has a mental illness” that makes it difficult for him to “control his urges” (for the precise wording en français, see the video here). That DSK has a maladie mentale has been the near universal sentiment of the numerous friends and colleagues in town—both women and men—with whom I have discussed the affair since it broke in May. It is also no doubt the prevailing sentiment within the Socialist party, despite the public declarations of its leading figures. In this respect, I differ with my blogging confrère Arthur Goldhammer, who wrote in TNR last week—in an analysis I otherwise entirely agree with—that the French political elite may try to facilitate a DSK comeback, for his brilliance as an economist at least. I’m not so sure. Socialists may be happy that DSK will be coming home but they are manifestly uncomfortable whenever asked about him by reporters. They offer pro forma declarations of support and then quickly change the subject. Socialists are riveted to the polls like everyone else, know that DSK is now radioactive for the majority of public opinion, that the question of what precisely did happen in Suite 2806 cannot be avoided—DSK will certainly decline to answer it if posed but it will remain the two-ton elephant in the room—, and that his legal problems are not over (Nafissatou Diallo’s civil suit, the suit filed by Tristane Banon, and others that will no doubt come). Even DSK’s closest associates in the PS—e.g. Jean-Christophe Cambadélis, Jean-Marie Le Guen—have moved on politically—to Martine Aubry or François Hollande—and don’t sound like they’ll be rolling out the red carpet on the Rue de Solférino when DSK is back in town. So instead of making a comeback he’ll likely try to fade from public view for a long stretch—do the traversée du désert—and until his legal problems have passed. After that, on verra.

In addition to his TNR piece Art Goldhammer had a fine op-ed in Le Monde comparing the American and French judicial systems. He also had a salutory skewering on his blog of Pascal Bruckner’s asinine commentary on the dénouement of the DSK affair, as well as a critique of Eric Fassin’s conception of the way the American judicial system works.

On DSK’s brilliance as an economist. This is incontestable. It is equally incontestable that he was a first-rate managing director of the IMF. But for the anecdote, I had the occasion to hear him talk about economics in person some five or six years ago, when I dropped by a cours magistral he was giving at Sciences Po, in the Emile Boutmy amphitheater, which was packed. He was slowly pacing back and forth on the stage looking down, holding his chin, and being the savant, explaining comparative advantage and with David Ricardo’s clichéd examples of Portuguese wine trading for English wool. It was Economics 101, which the students had certainly learned in lycée and entirely memorized for the bac. While DSK was lecturing ponderously, the students, being typically French, were yakking among themselves or surfing the Internet on their laptops. DSK, being the typical French teacher, appeared oblivious to the fact that most of the students were not paying attention. It was an amusing spectacle. You had to be there.

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Anne & Dominique

I had no intention of posting anything more on the DSK affair until there was something new and noteworthy, but see that New York magazine has a lengthy piece on Anne Sinclair, “The Womanizer’s Wife,” which is not too bad. Two passages merit comment, one quoting my blogging confrère Arthur Goldhammer

As their marriage evolved, Sinclair was Strauss-Kahn’s chief adviser and sounding board—but that’s not all. She also provided funds for Strauss-Kahn’s campaigns, including a large apartment on Rue Laplanche for a campaign headquarters, the secretaries, the website, the publicity account with Euro RSCG. “Strauss-Kahn is widely considered intelligent and often described as brilliant, but when you look back on it, he hasn’t had such a stellar political career,” says Arthur Goldhammer, an affiliate at the Center for European Studies at Harvard University. “The fact is that the element that has put him at the top of the heap politically is his wife’s money. Euro RSCG has four staff members, I’ve heard, assigned to keeping him in the news. He has been able to campaign more or less permanently for almost twenty years.”

Art Goldhammer is quite right about DSK’s modest political career, which electorally has involved but a couple of terms as deputy from Sarcelles plus a short stint as mayor of the same. No great shakes. His national political reputation was mainly earned as Minister of Industy and Foreign Trade (1991-93), when I first heard about him, and above all as Minister of Economy and Finance (1997-99) in Lionel Jospin’s gauche plurielle government. Though his ministerial career was suddenly cut short on account of the ridiculous Cassette Méry affair—which turned out to be nothing at all—he earned high marks at Bercy and was considered even on the right as having been one of the best finance ministers France had had since at least the early ’70s. I certainly thought so, though revised my view somewhat after reading this not entirely flattering biography from 2000 (which focused on his public, not private, life). I still remained a strauss-kahnien though, malgré tout. But in terms of his electoral mandates and leadership positions in the PS, DSK could not boast the same record as other party éléphants, such as Laurent Fabius, Martine Aubry, or even François Hollande. And he did get annihilated (along with Fabius) by Ségolène Royal in the 2006 PS primary.

As for the second passage in the article meriting comment

After all, Sinclair was desperate to leave D.C. and wanted the presidency for him more than anything. In Strauss-Kahn, Sinclair saw the ultimate candidate. Her commitment to Judaism had deepened, and when her father passed away, she even decided that she would recite the Mourner’s Kaddish, or the Prayer for the Dead, for him. “My father did not have a son, so I took on the responsibility,” she has said. “Every day for a year, I visited the synagogue to recite the Kaddish, accompanied by my mother.” According to friends, she always wanted to prove that, more than 75 years after Léon Blum became France’s first Jewish prime minister, the French would again be willing to elect a Jew. Such a thing was worth the sacrifice, because it would make for une formidable revanche sur l’histoire—a revenge on history.

This is not a revelation. We already knew this about Anne S., of her pushing her husband to run and wanting to see him, as a Jew, elected Président de la République, to get that revenge on history. Well, I totally sympathized with this. The symbolism of a Jew in the Élysée—as opposed to merely prime minister, who is not directly elected—would have been as powerful as Obama, a person of color, winning the American presidency. And it would have likely happened (and bothered fewer Frenchmen than the not insignificant minority of Americans who still cannot abide the sight of a non-white man in the White House). We won’t get to see that next year, which is too bad.

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Encore une bonne tribune dans Libé d’aujourd’hui. La dernière phrase retient l’attention.


Les trois cercles de la justice new-yorkaise

Par CHARLOTTE PERSAN Diplômée de Sciences-Po Lyon, spécialisée dans l’étude de la vie politique américaine, et FRANÇOIS VERGNIOLLE DE CHANTAL Maître de conférences et corédacteur en chef de la revue Politique américaine

L’ «affaire» était trop parfaite : un homme blanc, puissant, riche et respecté aurait violé une jeune femme de ménage noire, immigrée, victime de violences dans son pays d’origine et qui malgré tout tentait seule (more…)

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