You no doubt know the scandal. Dominique Strauss Kahn or DSK head of the International Monetary Fund and frontrunner Socialist Party candidate for 2012 who a day prior led Sarkozy in the polls - Sarko was only #4 - is in NY Jail. DSK was arrested in First Class on the Air France flight to Paris ten minutes before takeoff on the JFK runway. He's alleged to have sexually assaulted a hotel maid in his $3000 dollar a night suite on Times Square then bolted and left his cell phone. DSK was in a hurry.
This event has sent France, and especially the Socialists, reeling. Changing the political landscape. With the first contender in years the Socialist had a good chance for the 2012 election and given the fact DSK might be incarcerated or not, his career, French pundits claim, has gone down the tubes. Not the first time for DSK either in the sexual harrassment department. Mr Strauss-Kahn had been due to meet Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, for talks on Sunday. Instead he was arrested. My question - he lives in DC with his wife Anne Sinclair - what was he doing in the big apple in the fancy suite on his IMF credit card?
Labelled "The Great Seducer" by the French media, Mr Strauss-Kahn has been criticised for his behaviour towards women.
Tristane Banon, a French writer, claimed she fended him off with kicks and punches during an alleged encounter, while an anonymous author last year claimed: "He has trouble controlling himself."
In 2008 he admitted to an affair with Piroska Nagy, a senior IMF official. Afterwards he said he had made an "error of judgment".
A French friend hazarded that this was a plot by Sarko to discredit DSK and bolster Sarko's popularity. I'd go more for that set up theory if the event happened in France. But then if this happened in France, it would probably be regarded with a shrug and 'it's his private life.' People paid off, the papers not covering it. Two top French TV news shows ignored DSK's past history and omitted interviewing Banon or Nagy as of Sunday. My other French friend said that DSK was a known frequenter of Les Chandelles, a club echangiste, the swingers club off from the Palais Royal. He'd shown me the place when I researched my book and I even set a scene there in Murder in the Palais Royal. Quite the luxe freewheeling couples and menage a trois all with gourmet cuisine.
The scary aspect - to me - is that this opens the door wider for Marine Le Pen, daughter of the National Front Right Winger Jean-Marie Le Pen, in 2012 - that's them. Marine's taken a lead in the polls. She's modernized the language of the Far Right, made it more appealing and palatable to the centrists, the disgruntled Socialists and the unions and popularized her father's National Front policies - in my opinion. My old Leftie friend stunned me a while ago saying 'you know Marine gets some things right.' This is the daughter of the man who called the Holocaust a footnote in history.
"Nicolas Sarkozy took many right-wing voters for a ride," Marine says. "He stole our slogans on security and order, promised a lot and delivered little. We won't be taken in twice."
Bernard Henri Levy the philosopher/journalist rockstar calls Marine le Pen 'sulphurus and scarier that her father." Bear that in mind. The latest polls show that her anti-globalisation, anti-Europe and anti-capitalist speeches make more inroads in the Left-wing electorate and among intellectuals that on the Right. On television, she is a redoubtable debater, having honed her bruiser's skills in numerous panels in which most of the other participants seemed to gang up against her. This has helped her: the Front National always made a meal of representing the citizens left without a voice. Her thrust is a mix of protectionism, almost Leftist social welfare economics and French nationalism that seems tailored to the present post-crisis Zeitgeist in France.
Following her father, she has built a strong nationwide support by opposing unchecked immigration, but insists this has nothing to do with racism and is only about proper assimilation into the French culture. Almost alone of the French political class, she has jumped on the European anti-Islamist bandwagon. She favours tailored jeans which she wears with high-heeled boots, silk shirts and strict blazers, and told Paris Match she follows the high-protein Dukan diet. She's also a single mother of three children.
In recent weeks, Le Monde and Marianne, the news weekly, published figures showing that close to one quarter of the Gaullist electorate sympathises with her views; and that almost half of all French voters agree with her on insecurity and crime.
One third agree on immigration, one third on "secularism" - code in France for disagreeing with the encroachment of Islam on society - and one quarter on leaving the euro. Fascinatingly, 74 per cent of the French would describe her as "courageous". Meanwhile 59 per cent consider her "racist", 47 per cent "modern" and 42 per cent "close to people's concerns."
Such figures would make her France's most electable politician if she weren't called Le Pen.
But if she weren't called Le Pen, would she be where she is now?
Cara - Tuesday
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