The knives are being sharpened for Dominique Strauss-Kahn—DSK, as he is known in France. Poor fellow! He forgot that he has numerous enemies out to traduce his reputation, destroy his career, leave everything he has worked for—the $3,000 luxury suite, the Porsches—in shambles.
Nicolas Sarkozy, the president of France, has good reasons to try and bring Strauss-Kahn and the socialists into disrepute. But another leading suspect in the plot to get DSK has to be Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany. Everything about the man must repel her. She leads a personally austere lifestyle. More important, she and her fellow Germans have every reason to want Strauss-Kahn out of the IMF. It's Strauss-Kahn who has been pushing for more generous loans to Athens and other cash-strapped European countries. In essence, a Frenchman is playing Russian roulette with German funds.
So this episode at the Sofitel Hotel in New York may simply be the latest chapter in the long saga of Franco-German hostilities. Does it rank up there with 1870, 1914, and 1940? Hardly. But it may testify to the willingness of Germany to do anything necessary to prevent a reckless Frenchman from risking inflationary policies.
Meanwhile, there's a good deal of gloating over Strauss-Kahn's humiliation. The Wall Street Journal, for example, observes
the arrest of Dominique Strauss-Kahn on charges of sexually assaulting a hotel cleaning woman in New York City is a personal humiliation for the French politician, but it is also a black mark on the International Monetary Fund that chose to overlook his previous sexual behavior. It will be fascinating to see how the grandees of French and international financial politics handle this one.
For others the Strauss-Kahn imbroglio is the melancholy case of a socialist who lost his way—and who empitomizes the general collapse of European socialism. Strauss-Kahn, so the thinking goes, became corrupted, a part of the financial elites that, as a socialist, he should have shunned. Instead, he became swept up in the heady lifestyle of the rich and famous. His alleged attack on a chambermaid simply represents the quintessence of privilege run amok. He had come to view himself as an aristocrat, endowed with unique rights. Droit de seigneur indeed.
At the same time, Strauss-Kahn faces the threat of a lawsuit in France itself. A 31-year-old woman, the goddaughter of his second wife, is accusing him of sexual assault about a decade ago. How DSK extricates, or attempts to extricate, himself from this pickle will be fascinating to observe. Perhaps he should call Bill Clinton for some advice.