I caught a bit of a television program devoted to the Dominique Strauss-Kahn (DSK) affair this morning, and I have done a bit of research on the Internet.
First, this affair is huge in France, newspaper sales have skyrocketed, the news weeklies are devoting 13-20 pages to it this week. DSK was, prior to this affair, thought to be the frontrunner for the nomination of the Socialist Party to oppose Sarkozy in 2012. DSK is widely thought to be a man of some brilliance in the financial/economic realm, as well as in the political realm. Despite having to apologize to the IMF quite early in his tenure for an affair he had with a subordinate Hungarian economist, he is regarded as having rescued the IMF from irrelevance and obscurity by orchestrating the bailout of the European banks and the Greek government.
DSK is married to a glamorous former telejournalist, Anne Sinclair, who was one of the most famous media figures in France in the 80’s and 90’s, a Barbara Walters-like figure, but with more substance. They live together in a Georgetown townhouse. Sinclair was born of French parents with the name Schwartz and is the granddaughter of the very successful artdealer Paul Rosenberg, who represented Picasso and Matisse, among others. Sinclair was born in New York, her parents had fled Europe, but went to high school and university in France. It is thought that DSK might have been able to introduce economic policies that would bring France out of the economic doldrums. It was this hope, possibly widely shared among the French professional class, which wants only results and cares little about ideology, that made him the frontrunner for the Socialist nomination.
He is a charismatic figure with certain liabilities known best to himself (he rehearsed them recently to a journalist in a published interview): his Jewishness, his womanizing, his money, much of which comes from his third wife, Sinclair. DSK reminds me of Helmut Schmidt somewhat. There was no note whatever in the telecast I saw of complaint about American prudery or about draconian American laws concerning sexual assault or rape. French journalists are trying not to prejudge the case, and there is no sense that the Americans have somehow overstepped any bounds. There were prior allegations of abuse in France, one from a 22-year-old novelist, another from a Socialist politician.