Tuesday, May 17, 2011

scandale a la française and meet the next sulphur

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


  1. Cara, there is a certain symmetry to your piece that drives me to suggest a different title: "Dominique Strauss Kahn off to Le Pen."

  2. This is so strange. While one part of the world seems to be trying for democracy, others seem to be going in the other direction. I am appalled that France and the United States are peopled by so many reactionary folks where liberty, equality, and brotherhood are being negated. The two countries that symbolized freedom. Following Tim's piece on Sunday, this is disturbing.

  3. Democracy is the goal of the poor and the disenfranchised. Majority rule is only good if the majority belong to the class which believes it has the right to rule.

    In the US and most European countries, the birth rate among the immigrant populations has soared while, in the case of the United States, that of the white majority has fallen to the point that in a few years, the majority will be of Hispanic origin. The right is fighting for its life and it fights dirty. How can a debate be won against a member of the opposition when they make up facts and figures and recite nightmare scenarios that have no basis in truth?

    In the US, those who are white, middle-class, and Republican view themselves as rulers by Divine Right. What bothers me so much is that many who are in that group got there by benefiting from the policies and programs of Lyndon Johnson and the Great Society. They have forgotten who they are and they don't want to help anyone else get a leg up on the ladder of success.


  4. Well, the ultra-right in France, as in other countries, like the Tea Party in the U.S., know how to use demagagy, except here they're not attacking the millionaires, Big Oil, Big Health Insurance, Big Auto, who are making money like crazy, while people are unemployed, underemployed, losing benefits, homes, and faced with rising costs on every front.

    Racism, as anti-Semitism, are used to make scapegoats, instead of pointing at those who are benefitting by economic policies.

    I read an article about Marine Le Pen where she said that it's not "the Jews," who are now the problem, but "immigrants." How modern of her to switch from anti-Semitism (which is still embedded, I'm sure) to anti-immigrantism, anti-Middle-Eastern or African peoples, and anti-Islam attitudes.

    I'm rather shocked a leftist friend gave her any credence. (It may be because she throws in a bit of anti-rich demagogy, which is phony.) No one in the U.S. who is a leftist or even a liberal Democrat would give the Tea Party or anyone in the ultra-right one bit of credibility, especially on racism.

    I hope the Socialist Party is finding new candidates. It sounds like this Strauss Kahn has just covered up (and the media helped him) bad behavior for years. The U.S. press often does, too, but then brings it up at opportune times, even consenting behavior between adults, which is not right, but it's not an assault, a felony.

    Arnold Schwarzenegger's sexual harassment of women during his campaign was raised, and then covered up. Now it's coming up again, after he's out of office, having harmed health care, education and services for elderly, disabled and poor people in his state.

    I hope everybody in France can see through the Le Pen demagogy and get together to oppose anti-Semitism and anti-immigrant racism. There was a terrific march of a million people in recent years in France in support of immigrant rights.

  5. Sorry I've been having trouble commenting on Blogger. It's allergic to my replies! Beth you bring up a good analogy - in a way the Hispanics in the US are like the Arabs in France, a huge segment of the population that's still regarded as a fringe minority. Lil, I think historically this is true and under the US radar, that's why I wrote this to show Marine Le Pen's pull on people's deep rooted fears. kathy d like the Tea Party here.
    It's disturbing to see on French TV news that now she's being asked her comments on everything ie DSK. it's a sad sign of the times
    thanks - Cara

  6. I think it's because Marine Le Pen is demagogically attacking the "elite," although, in essence she doesn't meant it; it's a ploy to win susceptible people to her ultra-right group.
    It's convenient at a time when people are hurting economically - losing jobs, benefits, etc. Blame the "elite," but really whip up hostility to immigrants, especially from the Middle East and Africa, and Roma people, too, as I recall.

    In the 1930s after the 1929 stock market crash, during the Great Depression, right-wingers blamed the "Jews," "Jewish bankers and brokers." So Jews were scapegoated.

    I agree that Latinos/as are scapegoated in the U.S. as Muslims and Arabs are in Western Europe. They are being blamed for allegedly taking jobs and other horrors.

    There is so much violence directed against the Latino/a community, especially immigrants, true. And now the horrible, restrictive laws and attacks on Ethnic Studies in Arizona, the laws in Arizona and now Georgia, allowing police to stop anyone and check documents, which is aimed against Latinos/as.

    Another thing I just read in the NY Times about Marine Le Pen is that she's using the scandal with the Socialist Party leading figure, Strauss Kahn, to attack "the elite," and allegedly champion women's rights -- which she does not in reality. It's more demagogy.

    I wish that the Socialist Party leadership would come out strongly against sexual molestation and harassment, very strongly, so the rightwing can't grab onto that issue and pretend to be for women when they aren't. I hope they do that, the men as well as the women.

    Bernard Levi is defending Strauss Kahn. He defended Roman Polanski; enough said for me. Women should really take this head on and push as hard as they can on this and be heard. And left and liberal men should agree with then.

    The ultra-right will just take advantage of any issue they can, and folks have to stand up to them.

  7. She is a Rascist !! she claims to be fostering democracy while she is not !! how can she be a polititian if she hates Islam and ore than 50% of her country's economy is from muslim Countries. I a a muslim myself and I think she should shut her big mouth Up and Keep her opinion to her self !! We dont Need ore Bitchy People in the world. We have enough and she is all of them.