Droit du L’Establishment

Hastily abbridged excerpts from an article of May 17, 2011 by The New York Times columnist Stephen Clarke:

Since Sunday, when Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the head of the International Monetary Fund, was arrested on sexual assault charges in New York, French politicians have been loudly expressing their horror at his “violent” treatment at the hands of America’s criminal justice system. It must be a shock to them: the sight of a top French establishment figure being treated like an ordinary criminal is about as rare as a photo of the Queen of England in a bikini.

But they are not merely voicing their concern for an esteemed colleague; many of them are also thinking, “There but for the grace of God (or rather the grace of living in France and not the United States) go I.”

France may think it had a revolution, but in fact it just got a new, and even more powerful, elite. They believe themselves so indispensable to the running of the country that trying to topple one of them is a bit like threatening to shoot a prize racehorse for nibbling your lawn. You’re meant to shut up and let them nibble.

French politicians are known to be serial seducers, and as a rule no one bothers them about it. It is widely accepted that a male politician can combine efficiency in his job with a tendency to leap into bed with as many people as possible. And maybe it’s true — the French eat a balanced diet and have lots of energy.

The most telling parallel with the Strauss-Kahn case is that of Roman Polanski. Whatever his talents as a filmmaker, he fled the United States to France in 1978 to avoid being sentenced for unlawful sex with a 13-year-old girl. When he was arrested in Switzerland in 2009, at the request of the American authorities, the whole of the French cultural establishment rose up to defend him.

All of which leads me to my belief that even if Dominique Strauss-Kahn is convicted and has to serve time, he will someday return to France, publish his autobiography (which will, of course, be adapted for the big screen by Mr. Polanski) and eventually be made a government minister.

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