Jacob Heilbrunn

Dominique Strauss-Kahn and Anti-Americanism

You have to hand it to the French. It didn't take them long to blame America for Dominique Strauss-Kahn's problems. The French satyr, as Maureen Dowd calls him, is in a peck of trouble, sitting in Riker's Island with the hoi polloi. Bad food. Nasty inmates. Confinement. None of it can be very much fun, not to speak of comparing it to his digs at the Sofitel, where he's accused of having attempted to attack a chambermaid, an immigrant from (French?) Africa.

So the French chattering classes have much to chatter about. Now they can talk about how stinky America is when contrasted with France. An indispensable account of bien pensant opinion in France is furnished by the Los Angeles Times today. Just to read it is to feel a warm glow of the good old days when the French would take out their frustrations on those callow Yankees. It's nice to see that even if France is no longer a great power, it can still lash out at its quondam American rescuer. In fact, its resentments are, of course, amplified by the fact that America and the English language have supplanted France and the French tongue. Kim Willsher reports:

 

While some viewed Strauss-Kahn and France as victims of the scandal, few spared a thought for the woman he is accused of attacking Saturday.

In truth, it takes very little for France to revert to its default position on the United States. Sniping about the invasion of McDonald's or Starbucks on the Grands Boulevards of Paris, niggling about Americans buying up real estate in the chic parts of town and country (the British are just as bad, but everyone thinks they're American), criticizing the wars in
Afghanistan and Iraq, and trashing the cultural omnipresence of Walt Disney Co.

Today, thanks to Strauss-Kahn, the French who choose to criticize the U.S. have a fresh reason to shake their heads and point fingers at the country they love to hate.

 

So far, Strauss-Kahn himself has been keeping mum, probably on the advice of his high-priced lawyers. He was almost able to pull a Polanski by rushing to an Air France jet. Now he must be hoping be to reach some kind of settlement in the hope of preventing prosecutors from being able to bring the case to trial. Another hope might be to argue that any jury pool is going to be hopelessly tainted, at least in New York, due to the massive publicity surrounding his arrest. Strauss-Kahn must be more than a little envious of Arnold who managed to terminate any publicity about his fathering a love-child for almost a decade by keeping it all in the family. It's been a bad week for gropers. Now Strauss-Kahn is himself groping to deal with a new reality as he sits in a jail cell wearing an orange jumpsuit.