Central Europe Activ

For a long time it was seen as a virtue that the French press was not grilling politician’s private lives. I think that the French public owes a lot to NYC gossip press and NYPD when it was saved from a non-substantial presidential campaign about the respective personal characters of Messieurs Strauss-Kahn and Sarkozy. In the meantime, the German Chancellor and other European leaders are waiting for an IMF leader they can talk about the euro.

After many years of suspicions and awkward explanations, Mr. Strauss-Kahn was detained in New York City that prevented him from attending a very important meeting with Angela Merkel on the very pressing issues of the euro, Portugal and Greece. A lot of people rightly point to the presumption of innocence with the arrested the Socialist politician, but I think that a person who is not capable to manage his private life in a way that is not preventing him from his public duties is not fit for high office.Dominique Strauss-KahnDSK

The problem with Dominque Strauss-Kahn is that the accusations about his conduct with women have been around him in the past twenty years. It was only two years ago that he has acknowledged an extra-marital affair with a Hungarian subordinate during the bailout talks with Hungary, questioning not only his ability to make judgements in his private life and marriage, but to separate his high responsibilities as IMF chief from his his attraction to the opposite sex. This time he was held back from a very important international meeting with Chancellor Angela Merkel to be questioned by the NYPD.

It was only two days ago that the starship of the European Left-wing press, the Guardian ran a story on Strauss-Kahn under the subtitle “Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s sex life has moved into folklore – but it won’t stop women voting for him in any presidential campaign.” The French author, Melissa Bounoua thought that “as old-fashioned as it might seem, French voters tend to judge politicians according to their projects. What we think of them as men is another story.” She was not right.

Nicolas Sarkozy was distracted from his high duties during his public divorce from his third wife. In a country, where a lot of voters have cast their ballots in rubber gloves, the most important topic of the election campaign so far was the character of Dominique Strauss-Kahn, and if it makes him fit for France’s highest office. Typically, a heavy-weight French fellow Socialist Jacques Atali was quoted saying

“We’ve seen other cases like this before, wrong accusations and malicious, so let’s remain cautious.

“Evidently, it could harm his career if it proves true that he has committed these acts, but if he manages to clear himself of this then it could be beneficial to him”.

I think it was wishful thinking in France that DSK will somehow manage his troubled relations with the other sex, or, to put it in a more malicious way, it was wishful thinking that this time bomb would not explode before the presidential election. A more thorough investigation may have forced him out of the race earlier that would have benefitted his party, his country and maybe himself, too. Even if he will be proven not guilty again, they way he behaves with women would probably call for therapy. And the consequences are even more tragic if the current allegation and the rumors that are already heard from many other women turn out to be true.

Just because he was a popular candidate the French progressive opposition had failed to offer a viable and attractive alternative to the current, rather unpopular government. With his alleged lead in the polls even before announcing his candidacy, it seems that instead of giving birth to viable political alternatives, France was just waiting for a savior and turned a blind eye to the imperfections of her knight.

I originally wanted to write something about French public discourse on Europe, but I think this issue comes first.














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  1. This so embarassing… I apologize to all woman for this unacceptable behavior. Jeezes… Bill CLINTON, that bunny from Italy Berlusconi, now this one. What is the matter with these people? Ladies, we are in dire need of some recap-courses from the ladies university. How come you never get caught in these circumstances? You’re not all saints either, are you? OMG … so embarassing.

  2. Die Verhaftung bedeutet das Ende von Strauss-Kahn an der Spitze des IWF. Bereits 2008, zu Beginn seiner Amtszeit, hat der IWF einen sittlichen Skandal unter seiner Beteiligung schlucken müssen. Der Franzose hat damals einen Romanze mit einer Untergebenen angefangen, was im Widerspruch zu den inneren Vorschriften des IWF stand und beinahe zu seiner Demission führte. Diesmal hat die Angelegenheit einen kriminellen Charakter. Auch wenn sich der Verdacht nicht bestätigen sollte, so werden es die Ermittlungen Strauss-Kahn unmöglich machen, seine Funktion weiter auszuüben. Der Vorwurf selbst erscheint als wahrscheinlich, denn Strauss-Kahn wurde bereits in der Vergangenheit der sexuellen Belästigung von Frauen beschuldigt. In Frankreich wurde eine Reihe von Skandalen mit seiner Beteiligung unter den Teppich gekehrt.

    Seine unabwendbare Demission ist ein Schlag gegen die Glaubwürdigkeit des IWF, aber auch für die Reputation Frankreichs. Den größten Schock hat Strauss-Kahn aber der Sozialistischen Partei versetzt: Er war sicherer Präsidentschaftskandidat der Partei für die im nächsten Jahr anstehenden Präsidentschaftswahlen und der einzige, der die reale Chance hatte, Nicolas Sarkozy zu besiegen. Das Ausscheiden von Strauss-Kahn aus dem IWF könnte auch die Wahl des neuen Chefs der Europäischen Zentralbank komplizieren. Noch vor wenigen Tagen wurde spekuliert, Angela Merkel werde der Nominierung des Italieners Mario Draghi nicht zustimmen und ihm als Ersatz den IWF-Vorsitz vorschlagen. Im Zusammenhang mit der plötzlichen Vakanz könnte diese Idee wieder aktuell werden.

  3. Private life is private life. Individuals are free in their relationships, and candidates to high office – whether political, business or otherwise – should be chosen on the basis of the skills corresponding to their jobs, and not on what they do with whom in their beds a 3 o’clock in the morning…

    … as long as it involves only and exclusively free and consenting adults. However, this is obviously not the case here. This is a criminal case (rape) being investigated, and as such it steps out of the scope of private life. There is victimisation being alleged here. Such is also the breach with Berlusconi (intercourse with a girl under age), as mentioned in another comment. Bill Clinton was another case, however (Monica Lewinsky was a free and consenting adult in the relationship they had together, what was brought against Clinton was the denial of the existence of this affair, publicly and under oath in front of the Grand Jury – thus the charge was perjury, not sexual harassment) – to reply to the same comment above.

    Maybe this charge against DSK is a false, malicious accusation – which comes exactly at the right moment to prevent from participating in the French presidential campaign an opposition candidate with real chances of winning the election. Therefore, of course, the existence of a malicious plot cannot be ruled out at this stage. Accusation does not automatically equate with guilt and condemnation.

    Yet let us hope the case will be investigated with as much care and thoroughness as would be used with suspects of a less prominent status – ordinary people like you and I. Letting prominent people get away with their misdeeds at the price of giving compensation money to their victims gives the public the wrong signal. There are categories of harm that just cannot be compensated for with money. And this would be one of these cases, if the accusations turn out to be true.

    At this stage all I am wishing for (wishful thinking?) is fair conduct of justice to everybody, regardless of status or prominence.

  4. I have very little faith in false accusation here. The Hungarian economist who was a subordinate to DSK now claims that she was coerced and her complaint buried. She thinks that DSK has a personal problem in his relationship with women that disqualifies him for an executive job. I think that it is likely that a lot of similar cases will come up in the next days.

    I would like to point to the graceful resignation of the German defense minister, who committed a much smaller error – he allegedly plagiarized a PhD thesis. He said in his resignation speech that even if he is not guilty, he wants to serve as minister of defense and not minister of self defense. DSK should consider this example.

  5. Just a little detail – being accused of some misdeed does not automatically mean that the accused person really committed it. In a country where rule of law prevails, there is something called presumption of innocence. This should be taken into account in discussing those matters (I think of this German defense minister mentioned by Dániel Antal) even if in cases such as DSK, some people may have a strong “presumption of guilt” based on certain elements, and do not want to come out as naive. Indeed the German defense minister was graceful in his behaviour – all the more if the charges against him turn out to be false. It is so easy to ruin somebody’s reputation – and much harder to re-establish it afterwards, even if it turns out that the allegations against them were false – some people cannot help thinking that “if it ever was alleged, it must have been for a reason”. It is hard to be admitted as innocent once spoken of as guilty, even without evidence. Having said all this, I hope that DSK is duly prosecuted and kept in jail – and just as importantly, out of politics in the long run – if proven guilty.

    Otherwise the post raises the much more important, and underlying, issue of the lack of a viable project on the side of the French progressists. This is exactly what leads them to rely on one or the other person’s charisma and aura. But a personality, as engaging as they can be, can never make up for the lack of a viable project. And this really is what kills the French progressists – much more than all the ado about DSK’s lifestyle, behaviour, personal morality and psychological problems, or about the strengths and weaknesses of So-and-so on the French progressive scene. Do they have a credible, viable, applicable program that they can back up with facts, figures, skills, strategies? This is the real issue – and this is what they should be working on. And in this respect, maybe DSK’s latest adventures could help them in the process – if only by forcing them to reconsider their attitude and strategy towards the election, and to come up with a more substantive platform, more likely to convince voters without having to rely on the possibly disputable aura of a “charismatic” leader.

    Parties propose leaders when they have no ideas to propose, and put people forward when they have no project to support.

  6. jackieh – I totally agree with you. I think that even the French left-wing should be happy that another hotel maid did not make the accusation say, a month ahead of the election. Leaving aside the current case – where I think the presumption of innocence must hold – it appears that DSK should have focused on defending his past 20 years of bad conduct with women anyway.

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