Could DSK Run for French President?

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Despite the groundswell of sympathetic coverage of Dominique Strauss-Kahn in France, following revelations of what look to be terminal problems with prosecution’s case against him on sexual assault charges, it appears that the Socialist Party is unwilling to adjust its election timetable to facilitate a bid for the presidency. But that does not mean his candidacy is impossible if he is cleared of charges in the next couple of months.

The short version is that the Socialist party had already set the deadline of July 13 for candidates to declare themselves, with the primary vote scheduled for October. But the next hearing in DSK’s case is not scheduled until July 18. Front-runner François Hollande had graciously suggested to push back the declaration day, but current party boss Harlem Désir nixed that. But if I am reading this Guardian report correctly, DSK may not be out, since he made a deal with Martine Aubry, who entered a bid last week, and she might withdraw in his favor.

DSK was ahead in polls before this coup de foudre. It looks quite possible, if he is indeed cleared of charges in time to enter the race, that his popularity would be enhanced. Remarkably, the French public was apparently not aware of his aggressive sexual tendencies (I find that hard to believe, given I had heard of them, and I don’t follow either French politics or the sordid side of the lives of the elite unless they become major media stories. Anthony Weiner does not make the grade). So that would taint him in the eyes of some voters. But his rough treatment by the US prosecutors elicited sympathy back at home even when it looked like the charges might stick.

Some comments via the Guardian:

[S]ome French supporters presented him as an innocent victim, hero and martyr. Left-wing philosopher Bernard-Henry Lévy spoke of a noble man who had been the victim of a “spiral of horror and calumny”. He told Le Parisien that Strauss-Kahn had been “lynched” by the “friends of minorities” in the US. He said that because the victim was “poor and immigrant” she had been presumed innocent, and because Strauss-Kahn was “powerful” he had been presumed guilty.

Sylvie Pierre-Brossolette, political editor of the weekly Le Point, felt “anything is possible”. A returning Strauss-Kahn might be seen by the French as “hero” mistreated or “humiliated” by the American justice system. Much would depend on whether French left voters still saw him as a “saviour” against Sarkozy, she wrote….

Socialist MP Marisol Touraine, a key DSK ally, said she hoped for Strauss-Kahn’s “rehabilitation” but warned that he would not be able to return to a “status quo” in France as if nothing had happened. Gérard Collomb, the mayor of Lyon and Strauss-Kahn supporter, warned that Strauss-Kahn should first “rebuild himself” before a possible return to the presidential race, warning that no one emerged from such a case “unscathed”.

Pollsters cautioned that Strauss-Kahn’s return would be shaped by whether the American justice system cleared him or whether charges were dropped, leaving doubts. Pascal Perrineau, of Paris’s Institute of Political Science, said that if Strauss-Kahn was cleared of all suspicion, his return to France could still be complicated.

“If a strong doubt persists over his behaviour, and even if that behaviour isn’t as criminal as was once suggested, a return [to politics] seems really very difficult,” he told Reuters.

It’s interesting that some French would see charges being dropped as less favorable than a case going forward, since the reality is that all the discussion of what did or didn’t happen in his hotel room is certain to diminish DSK. I’m astonished the DA has not abandoned the case given that successful prosecution depended on the the maid’s testimony, and her credibility is now nada. The letter that the prosecutors sent to the defense reveals that she lied about a past gang rape (pretty credibly, it appears) and committed perjury in grand jury testimony:

After reciting other misrepresentations, the DA’s office suggests she has told so many lies they no longer know what to believe:

The New York Times reported this ugly bit from a conversation with her boyfriend that was recorded:

When the conversation was translated — a job completed only this Wednesday — investigators were alarmed: “She says words to the effect of, ‘Don’t worry, this guy has a lot of money. I know what I’m doing,’ ” the official said.

And the New York Post (yes, it’s the Post, but remember, the Post broke this story) suggests the accuser was doing tricks on the side:

“There is information . . . of her getting extraordinary tips, if you know what I mean. And it’s not for bringing extra f–king towels,” a source close to the defense investigation said yesterday.

The woman was allegedly purposely assigned to the Midtown hotel by her union because it knew she would bring in big bucks.

“When you’re a chambermaid at Local 6, when you first get to the US, you start at the motels at JFK [Airport]. You don’t start at the Sofitel,” the source said. “There’s a whole squad of people who saw her as an earner.”

The woman also had “a lot of her expenses — hair braiding, salon expenses — paid for by men not related to her,” the source said.

Attacking the reputation of the woman in a rape trial is standard fare. And even prostitutes (assuming she was one on the side) are entitled not to be abused. But in a rare moment of lucidity (and apparently unaware of the Post’s speculation), Maureen Dowd pointed out:

Law enforcement officials say privately that they still think DSK sexually assaulted the maid. But the case relied on her credibility, and that’s gone.

They say it is roughly analogous — not in terms of the maid’s sexual history but her record of veracity — to a case in which a prostitute is raped. It’s hard to prosecute, and the perp can often get away with it.

While I don’t know how the prosecution can drop the case gracefully, pressing forward looks likely to dig them an even deeper hole. In keeping with the press’ tendency to mimic momentum traders, the New York Times has a front page story, “Strauss-Kahn Case Adds to Doubts on Prosecutor,” which raises doubts about Manhattan DA Cyrus Vance’s leadership.

We could spend more time speculating on whether DSK might indeed have a political future in France. However, the short answer is that this drama is still unfolding and DSK’s fortunes depend on how the next few scenes play out.

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  1. tyaresun

    It depends on how the Euro crisis develops over the summer. I think there is a good chance that events will turn in DSK’s favor.

    1. ambrit

      Dear Mr Regula;
      Yes Sweet Cheeks, there is. The ‘Congress’ of Interpersonal Operatives. You figure out the Local number.

    2. Foppe

      Yes, lots of illegal residents are forced to become prostitutes (either by circumstance or through actual use of force/coercion), and have almost no leg to stand on when they are assaulted or whatever, for fear of being kicked out by the INS. Unions can help a bit there.

      1. ambrit

        Mr Foppe;
        Since sex workers are a ‘public utility’ in France, how does that enlightened bourne handle labour ‘relations?’

  2. Pat

    Prosecutors and especially DAs are pre-occupied with their conviction rates. So they will want to try to get DSK on something, even if it’s only some minor misdemeanor, such as soliciting a prostitute or misdemeanor battery (and almost any sort of physical contact can be battery). Another reason for getting a misdemeanor conviction is that it would stop civil suits by the defendant, such as wrongful prosecution, or court or bar association sanctions. Plus this would help with the negative publicity.
    So in theory this case could easily drag on for months and put DSK’s candidacy in jeopardy. The New York DA, as incompetent as they are, still have a little bit of leverage over DSK, because of possible minor misdemeanor charges. And they could easily get continuances until late this year.
    If I were DSK’s lawyers, I would prepare the full range of motions to dismiss and civil suits and file for a “factual declaration of innocence”. But that could easily take 6 months or a year to get.

    What is amazing about this case is that mainstream US media has never asked the larger questions about the timing of the incident and the Establishment’s motives for wanting to get rid of DSK. Not even now, after the facts have come out. At most they imply that she was a gold-digger and attention-seeker, like Tawana Brawley. There has been almost no mention of the large amounts of money deposited in her bank accounts and who would have paid her and why.

    1. Valissa

      Despite the problems with the legal case, right after he was charged many women in France and the IMF discussed/complained what a grabby lecher he was (at the very least, I am being kind here). In aprticular, IMF female staff decribed how they would avoid being alone in a room with him. However, that doesn’t seem to be the issue under discussion. And there are many men like this in power in the world. Ces’t la Vie!

  3. rafael bolero

    Just a question about the French politics, if anyone knows: in what way can the Head of the IMF be a “socialist” alternative to a–what?–right wing?–Sarkozy?
    If an IMF banker is a “leftist” candidate, in any way, than what is behind Sarkozy? Isn’t being head of the IMF pretty much as “right” as you can get–in public? Or, does Sarkozy represent the MIC powers who bomb and blow things up, which is pretty “right wing,” whereas DSK is the more pacifistic IMF ideology of buying up and privatizing the assets instead? Has the term “socialist” been co-opted in Europe/France to now mean slightly left of far right? I do not understand, obviously.

    1. Valissa

      I (and others) have often tried to point out that the old left-right memes have broken down and, as you pointed out don’t really make sense any more, so we need some new language. But it appears people are not ready to ‘change’ on this issue just yet. The Left-Right-Center paradigm seems to be deeply rooted and the familiar propaganda wars comforting to mental stability.

    2. Gerald Muller

      Even if that may sound bizarre, Sarkozy’s party is somewhere to the left of the democratic party here. In fact the whole of French political spectrum -with the exception of the fairly irrelevant extreme Front National- is to the left of the American political spectrum, which is the main reason why, on political issues, French and American do not understand each other. Now DSK was proposed for the top IMF slot as an -at the time- astute political move by Sarkozy to send a potentially dangerous rival on the other side of the pond where his voice would be restrained by the IMF statutes.
      Finally, the word “socialist” in France has a very different meaning than in the US. It just means another variation on the theme “made in ENA”, where ENA stands for Ecole Nationale d’Administration, a special school for most top civil servants and top politicians. There are few exception like Sarkozy, who was temporarily a lawyer, and DSK, initially a Professor of Economics, but after a few years in politics, they all look alike. Just to mention a few, Giscard d’Estaing, Chirac, Jospin, and the present contenders for the “socialist” nomination are all issued from the ENA.

      1. rafael bolero

        Thanks. Now I understand more. But, apparently the US and France see eye to eye on Libya–why? 1. Oil? 2 Kadaffi’s experiment with gold currency? 3. Neo-colonialism 4. Sarkozy needs to look tough? 5. A handle on the Arab Spring somewhere over there? (although looks like Egypt isn’t going anywhere new very easily).

  4. dearieme

    “Socialist” may just mean “in the pocket of the trade unions” or, even simpler, “In my gang, not yours”.

    1. Psychoanalystus

      If he’s running for president, then I’m investing long (pun intended) in Viagra…LOL

  5. Patricia

    So she does tricks and lies, and he is a john and a liar. But additionally, he has a long history of liking it free and mean. Isn’t it the usual story, even down to the man being wealthy with reputation and the woman being wayward and dishonorable?

    It’s stereotypical, actually, which is why conspiracy suspicions rise in all directions. Who knows what’s actually going on behind the scene? We, the public, won’t ever know. The MSM feeds us the illusion that we can actually have the “final word”; and most of us fall into line, although with a niggling uneasiness that we name distaste. We cast about for inconsistent tidbits, weaving excellent stories to fit them. In the end, it’s the stories that everyone creates that are the most interesting to me.

    Prostitutes need unions more than any other working group, I suppose. Talk about working from a position of no power…. :-/

    1. Cedric Regula

      I think you’ve struck on a subject for a NC post.

      Optimum Business Model for Hos/Prostitutes/Escorts?

      1)Pimp Model
      3)Independant Contractor

  6. MichaelC

    The whole story sounds to me much more like “rich boy goes slumming, gets caught, and ends up swimming in a meaner shark tank than he’s (or his lawyers) used to than a devious conspiracy trap. And it appears Vance may be a little too genteel (or naive, or politically ambitious) for this district.

    This is DSKs Paula Jones moment, (or his Gatsby moment, or his Sherman McCoy moment, take your pick). He’s never going to shake this off.

    Leave it to the Post to out it bluntly,

    “When you’re a chambermaid at Local 6, when you first get to the US, you start at the motels at JFK [Airport]. You don’t start at the Sofitel,” the source said. “There’s a whole squad of people who saw her as an earner.”

    Is the Local 6 a tool for geopolitical kingmakers? Unlikely. So no conspiracy, no sympathy for DSK, no political future for DSK. Everyone who touched this is now covered in s***.

    1. doom

      Yes, Local 6 is quite unsuitable for dirty tricks. Right, that’s how spooks advance – by making sure every skin on the wall is a prominent, respectable lady or gentlemen. Why, I am sure that bona fide agents must provide three references and degrees from the most selective schools.

  7. Le Pound of Flesh

    “…Imagine a prominent figure was charged not with raping a maid, but starving her to death, along with her children, her parents, and thousands of other people. That is what the IMF has done to innocent people in the recent past. That is what it will do again, unless we transform it beyond all recognition. But that is left in the silence.” Johann Hari

  8. Bam_Man

    It would not surprise me at all if DSK does indeed have a bright future in French politics.

    The “system” is now selecting for sociopathy, and the voters are part of that system.

    It seems the French are likely to take the view that this unfortunate episode with the chambermaid solely reflects the fact that DSK is a lousy tipper. Very similar in many respects to Clinton’s encounter with Paula Jones by the way.

    1. xct

      I have it on good authority that “not few feel disgusted” by the whole affair. Instead, more are thinking of Francois Hollande as a good candidate, also the two women leaders from the Socialist Party.

  9. Maju

    Running or not, Sarko wins again!

    I wouldn’t vote for him or anyone in the Center-Right PS but a weak and divided PS favors Sarko in any case. (Yes, you read well: some European “socialist parties” are objectively right win parties, while some “conservative” ones are more in the center, lefty parties are all minority, except maybe in Greece, would they have elections today).

    I am seriously concerned by this growing dark power of Sarko and in general of the European Right. Notice that it is the official Right (conservatives, CD) which rules in all the core Europe: Germany, France, UK, Italy and all the small Nordic states I can remember. And they are using the crisis to gain power in the South as well. I’m no fan of the Center-Right social-democrats, which rule only as violin government (supported by the left but played by the right), a true sock-puppet show, but the trend now is to totally exclude them and create a purely Conservative rule all through Europe.

    And Sarko is clearly into that, as he is in the Libyan attack and so many other disgraces. I’m getting really paranoid about that guy of all politicians on Earth. Even Putin seems almost a moderate at his side.

  10. Fannie/Treasury

    “They cooperated with loan sharks to supply credit and collect payments from their punters.”

  11. Susan

    Well, if DSK must go on the French campaign trail and tout himself as the next president, all sorts of tidbits about Sarkozy will be floating around. Sarko’s relationship with NYPD Chief Ray Kelly will hit the fan. More info will come out about those dirty tricks. Speaking of tricks. Who knows, maybe there is a Sarko connection to NYPD’s rift with the FBI over the killing of OBL and future terrorism. I’d like to see DSK run just to hear more.

  12. Sufferin' Succotash

    Hello out there! France’s Socialist Party really stopped being substantially socialist nearly 30 years ago, when Mitterand did his celebrated 180° on economic policy. Since then French politics has come to resemble ours: Center-
    Right, Right, Extreme Right.
    It’s the “Great Moderation” as applied to politics.

  13. Wootie Berster

    With my tin foil hat clamped on extra tight, I propose a loony theory: given that DSK, a self-identified extreme partisan of Israel, has been working for Mossad all along, and that Sarko is the adopted child of an iconic CIA man, and that DSK’s replacement in the IMF is a long time CIA asset.. well.. this is a factional dispute, if you will, among the action wings of two major financial cartels in the Atlanticist sphere of the moment. And did someone mention the benighted Greece.. and it’s assets (economic, that is)? Which of course is merely the prelude to the financial rape of much of the western world. A huge grab for power, I would think.

    Alright. Hats off. Phew! What in hell what that about?

  14. Francois T

    Vance shouldn’t try to maintain this moribund case alive. He should cut his losses and move on.

    As much as I despise people like DSK who believe they’re entitled to do whatever they damn please because they got money and power, the fact is that no jury will believe someone with a credibility destroyed beyond repair.

  15. Mojave_Wolf

    Hi; moderately long-while reader, first time commenter. And, normally, I love both your posts and naked capitalism, so I kinda hate starting with a highly critical comment. But ….

    I find the two primary lines of thought here really disappointing. The first, related to DSK, seems not to particularly care whether he’s guilty. It’s all “he’s gonna get off and go home, now, can he still run and win?” If he’s a rapist, why would this be an idea that anyone would find even vaguely cheery? Even if he is innocent,I since the beginning of this case, I’ve wondered over the casting of DSK as some sort of socialist hero for reasons others have pondered above. Seriously, I don’t see how he’s likely to be such a revolutionary, awesomely wonderful leader that parts of anyone’s brain would be clicking through neural pathways that would consider “rapist or not-rapist” irrelevant. And, really, I’m not sure that should ever be blithely set aside.

    But even more disturbing is the general tone indicating thoughts along the line of “she lied about some things, not related to this event, therefore, case closed, she’s a lying wh*re and he’s innocent, and all rumors about how she’s a criminal liar are clearly true and don’t need much further investigation and whether he lied or what he lied about is kinda moot for evidentiary purposes.”

    For a more detailed take on this, I would direct you to

    She does an excellent job of explaining why rape victims who don’t live up to a set of extremely high, somewhat arbitrary and highly bigoted standards will think they have to gloss over imperfections in their life, and how they are then punished for such lies, even if they have no relevance to the case at hand. Sadly, the same thing doesn’t happen to rapists. “I never met her” becomes “I never touched her” becomes “It was consensual” and no one seems to care.

    Similar points about standards of scrutiny were made in another post by Jill at Feministe who mentioned she was counting the hours till someone alleged the housekeeper was a prostitute. Hey, it just took one to get the ball rolling and now everyone is doing it, even while no one has any evidence of such (though hey, much credit to you for acknowledging this *should* be an irrelevant factor).

    I mean, c’mon, quoting the NY Post and Maureen Dowd? And the Dowd quote actually doesn’t do anything to exculpate DSK at all, if anything the reverse. Yet it’s made in his favor, as if “just because a bunch of moronic dipsh*ts will think he’s innocent for stupid and bigoted reasons, we should start working on that assumption.”

    Okay, maybe this latter quote was more along the lines of “he’s going to get off” rather than “he’s innocent”, but the surrounding text didn’t seem exactly distressed about chalking up another victory to rich and powerful over the poor and downtrodden, even if it meant a rapist gets away with it and a victim’s life gets sent straight to hell for the crime of reporting-an-assault-while- imperfect. But what the hell. She was just a housekeeper, and one who didn’t always play by the rules at that, while he was a fine upstanding pillar of the community with a presidency to worry about. Got to keep our eye on the ball here.

  16. Gerald Muller

    What no-one seems to have noted is that DSK may be a questionable human being with respect to women (except his wife, Anne Sinclair, not a small exception). He has, however, a formidable intellect, recognized by all at IMF and in most international financial circles.
    Considering that he probably will keep out of harm’s way, having gotten his lesson the very hard way, his intellect might still prove to be useful to France, probably the best would be in the position of finance minister.

  17. ToivoS

    Chambermaid Diallo should be acclaimed for her actions. Look what she did — this poor immigrant from Africa by herself seriously wounded and almost took down one of the most powerful bankers in the world. I don’t care if she lied or not. She accomplished much more in the war against banksters than any of us have. If the justice department is not going to punish those fraudsters, who will?

    1. phil.hubb

      “this poor immigrant from Africa by herself seriously wounded and almost took down one of the most powerful bankers in the world. I don’t care if she lied or not”


      What good is taking down a banker (even a big squid like Mr Strauss-Khan?)
      Who was going to take down his new replacement and how?
      It’s the system that needs to be dismantled. Khan et al are mere actor’s in the damned system, fully replaceable, as we’ve just witnessed over the last several weeks.
      The actors are just replaceable parts in the machine.

      That’s what you anarchists always failed to recognize; tossing bombs at individual actors does nothing really to advance your agenda of dismantling a system that is actually much larger than the individuals you target.

      The problem we’re collectively facing isn’t even a human being, so destroying any of the individual actors (or their reputations as in this instance) cannot possibly solve the problem.

      1. ToivoS

        If you have any ideas on dismantling the system I am all ears. In the meantime, I will admire one poor peasant who managed to seriously wound one of the king’s barons.

  18. Foppe

    Yves: 1 question.
    Why do you quote the NYP stating that ‘she might have been sent there by her pimp=union’, when a) literally all of the information the NYP gives comes from an unspecified ‘source’ close to the defense</I., b) the defense has an incredible incentive to spread lies, especially when they can do so anonymously, and c) the NYP probably does not like unions?
    As you note, attacking credibility is key, but it seems a bit weird to me to cite the NYP when
    all of their information comes from anonymous sources with reason to lie and mislead.

  19. Thomas Barton, JD

    After reading todays profile in the Telegraph of Tristane Banon, the illustrious DSK is as oblivious to the perception aspect of political reality as is our esteemed jewelry hound, Newt Gingrich.

  20. David

    It seems to me that this entire case was a scam by her to file a civil suit against DSK.

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