Sunday, July 3, 2011
It’s a lot of fun watching a big guy go down, hence our enjoyment of Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s predicament. Here was a wealthy, powerful man in whose hands rested the destiny of nations, and he was accused of sexually molesting an unfortunate black immigrant woman, a maid in a luxury hotel. There was something positively delicious about such a heavy hitter imprisoned at Ryker Island with the prostitutes, pimps, murderers and other felons. What was he thinking? The debate raged on the front page for days on end, and the weekly news magazines had a blood feast.
Now it appears the story is perhaps a bit more complex. The maid is not the vestal virgin we would have liked her to be. She’s ruining the story by being merely human, that is to say she lied, possibly thought of enriching herself, may have faked her immigration application, and had relations with a bad guy, a drug dealer serving time.
The basic charges still hold: DSK, the lout, apparently came out of his hotel suite’s bathroom stark naked and demanded some sort of sex, then brutalized the maid when she refused to perform. She complained, cops were called, DSK was nabbed just before he was to take off for his native France. He has, the media tells us, a history of such behavior, and when the story broke several women were there to attest that they, too, had been manhandled by the former chief of the International Monetary Fund. His wife Anne Sinclair, a former broadcast star, seemed to consider these accusations peccadilloes and was heard to say that “for a political man, it is important to seduce.” She forgot, no doubt, that her husband’s latest transgression was aggressive and not seductive.
The ramifications of the case were even bigger in France where DSK had been touted as the Socialist Party’s great white hope, a possible presidential candidate with a good chance of trouncing the increasingly unpopular Nicolas Sarkozy. DSK’s arrest threw the party into turmoil from which it has not yet emerged.
Sex cases are particularly tricky, according to law enforcement officials. The victims are clearly casualty, the transgressors reviled, and this long before any case goes to trial. There is something visceral there, and opinions are formed with great and unfair immediacy. In the case of DSK, the situation was almost feudal: a great, landed noble versus a hapless immigrant. No one thought to question the victim—we are a nation that roots for the poor and the disenfranchised and what more did we need to know: she was black, foreign, in a low-end job, not just an immigrant but a refugee from a country we could not point to on a map. DSK was wealthy, and like Balzac, most of us believe that behind every great fortune lies a great crime. If he wasn’t guilty of assaulting the maid, he was nevertheless guilty of something. That’s all we needed too know.
Personally, I still think DSK is a creep. I’ve met others like him—Washington crawls with men such as him. I suspect he’ll skate on this one; there will be deals, exchanges of money, false apologies and the necessary dance of regrets. He will return to Europe. The maid may fare far worse and be deported. The story has already shifted from A1 to A14. Soon it will be a brief item in the Around the World column.
Eh. C’est la vie.