Opinion

The Great Debate

A tale of two rape charges

By Naomi Wolf
The opinions expressed are her own.

With the arrest of Dominique Strauss-Kahn, then Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, New York City has abruptly become the scene of two very different official approaches to investigating sex-crime cases, one traditional and one new. The new approach so far appears to be reserved for Strauss-Kahn alone.

Consider the first case: the ongoing trial of two police officers, Kenneth Moreno and Franklin Mata, charged in the rape of a 27-year-old Manhattan woman. She was drunk, and, after helping her to enter her apartment, Moreno and Mata allegedly made a false emergency call so that they could return to her. At that point, the woman says, she woke periodically out of her intoxicated state to find herself being raped, face down, by Moreno, as Mata stood guard.

The alleged rape of a citizen by a police officer — and the alleged collusion of another officer — is surely a serious matter. But the charges and trial have followed an often-seen pattern: the men’s supporters have vociferously defended their innocence (the presumption of which has been scrupulously upheld in the press); the victim’s pink bra has been the subject of salacious speculation, and her intoxication has been used to undermine her credibility. As the wheels of justice grind unglamorously forward, Mayor Michael Bloomberg has made no public statement supporting the victim’s side.

Moreover, Moreno and Mata have not been asked to strip naked for “evidence” photos, were not initially denied bail, and were not held in solitary confinement, and are not being strip-searched daily. Their entire case has followed the usual timetable of many months, as evidence was gathered, testimony compiled and arguments made.

Then there is the Strauss-Kahn approach. After a chambermaid reportedly told her supervisor at the elegant Sofitel hotel that she had been sexually assaulted, the suspect was immediately tracked down, escorted off a plane just before its departure, and arrested. High-ranking detectives, not lowly officers, were dispatched to the crime scene. The DNA evidence was sequenced within hours, not the normal eight or nine days. By the end of the day’s news cycle, New York City police spokespeople had made uncharacteristic and shockingly premature statements supporting the credibility of the victim’s narrative — before an investigation was complete.

How Lagarde should be appointed at the IMF

By Mohamed El-Erian
The opinions expressed are his own.

Eager to retain a historical but outmoded entitlement, European politicians seem to be coalescing around Christine Lagarde to replace Dominique Strauss-Kahn as Managing Director of the IMF. Lagarde has the qualifications to successfully lead a multilateral institution that is central to the well being of the global economy. Her ability to do so, however, may critically depend on how she is appointed.

Lagarde has considerable skills and expertise; she has gained important experience in both the private and public sectors; and, judging from her stint as France’s Minister of Finance, she has navigated well the corridors of political power at the national and European levels.

Lagarde would be the first woman to lead a Bretton Woods institution. Such an overdue appointment would send an important message to an IMF demoralized by disturbing allegations of sexual assault by Strauss-Kahn. It would also come at a time when delicate questions are being raised as to whether the institution has historically been tolerant of inappropriate behavior.

DSK saga is not just a French thing

By Maureen Tkacik

Whatever transpired in Suite 2806 of the Midtown Sofitel early Saturday afternoon, it seems clearer with each passing hour that being accused of sexual assault is far from a “Black Swan” event in the life of DSK. In 2007, the journalist Tristane Banon told a TV talk show host he had wrestled her to the ground and torn off her clothes during an interview a few years earlier; the talk show host in turn allowed that he knew “fourteen” separate women with similar tales. DSK’s name was eventually edited out of the broadcast for largely legal reasons, but it surfaced the next year when the IMF was forced to launch an investigation into his affair with a subordinate.

Indeed, on Monday the phrase “Who hasn’t been groped by Dominique Strauss-Kahn?” gained wide currency, even though it was first uttered (albeit in French) years ago by the actress Danièle Evenou.

But for once, there was a perfectly obvious explanation to the vexing mystery of how such a towering public figure might have got away with such prolific predation for so many years — but of course, c’est France vee are talking about! Zee French media do not pry into zee “sex life” of politicians zee vay vee repressed Puritanical Americans feel so compelled to do.

Strauss-Kahn’s fall brings the French Left down with him

By Ronald Tiersky

Dominique Strauss-Kahn has thrown away a good chance of becoming the next president of France. His demise damages his own Socialist party and the entire French Left, in which the Socialists are the dominant force and the only party that can possibly produce a winning candidate for the 2012 election.

In the half-century since Charles de Gaulle founded the French Fifth Republic in 1958 the French Left has elected only one president — Francois Mitterrand in 1981. Re-elected in 1988, Mitterrand’s political legacy was, at least apparently, to have given France a permanent left/right, Socialist/Conservative alternative. But things haven’t turned out that way.

Something has always been wrong with the French Left’s politics–at least, that is, if its goal was to win elections and govern the country.

Strauss-Kahn and the troubling ‘omertà’ of the French media

 

 

By Christophe Deloire
The opinions expressed are his own.

LE MONDE/Worldcrunch — The Strauss-Kahn affair which began in a Sofitel hotel room shows that writing endless editorials or making sermons predicting the future does not get us any closer to the truth. When dealing with politics, French media usually call in a troop of editorial writers, re-baptized “commentators”, whereas Anglo-Saxon newspapers, even if they have their own shortcomings, dedicate more space to investigative journalism that holds the power to make important revelations and share them with the public. A thirst for the facts has never harmed democracies.

French democracy needs a real shot of “common decency,” a remedy coined by the British writer George Orwell. It is a code of simplicity and honesty, and should be followed by politicians, “intellectuals” and journalists. Common decency, in itself, obviously means respecting people, but above all, it is a refusal to create something from nothing. Instead, one must be obsessed by the submission to facts. This decency should forbid untoward comments, which are somehow deemed acceptable because of freedom of speech.

In 2006, Christophe Dubois and I wrote an investigative book entitled Sexus Politicus about the aphrodisiac character of power, and the various low blows of political life. It included a chapter called “the DSK affair,” dealing with Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s unconventional behavior. Not yet head of the International Monetary Fund back then, Strauss-Kahn is depicted taking unnecessary risks for a statesman in his position, and being surprisingly vulnerable. The scenes described in the book did not fall solely within the realm of seduction. We and our publisher Albin Michel faced intense pressures due to the nature of the information revealed in that chapter.

Strauss-Kahn allegations are consequential for the global economy

By Mohamed A. El-Erian
The opinions expressed are his own.

This weekend’s detention of the IMF’s chief on allegations of sexual assault has implications that go well beyond the impact on Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s (or, as he is commonly known, DSK) international prestige. They could also impact the IMF, France, market uncertainty and the well-being of the global economy.

We must wait to make a full assessment until we know the outcome of ongoing police investigations into allegations that, according to his lawyer, DSK intends to “contest vigorously.” Having said that, some commentators are already taking the view that the IMF could lose its managing director, and that France could lose a leading candidate for next year’s presidential elections.

Should he be forced to step down, DSK would be the third successive head of the IMF to leave suddenly. Once again, this would catch the institution with a selection process for the top position that is still overly dominated by politics, horse-trading between Europe and the US and other outmoded characteristics.

Strauss-Kahn scandal: presidential hopes are all but dead

 

 

By Henri Gibier
The opinions expressed are his own.

PARIS — It took only a few minutes, Saturday afternoon in a hotel in Manhattan, for Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s career to be tainted by scandal. The inquiry into the allegations made against the IMF head has only just begun, but the damage inflicted to his image and reputation has already reached the point of no return. Strauss-Kahn may proclaim his innocence, and his supporters may speak of an international conspiracy – certainly their positions should be given as much attention as that of his accuser – but the damage has already been done. And the damage is obviously considerable.

First of all, the affair deals a heavy blow to the French left. The Socialist Party seemed convinced that Strauss-Kahn’s candidacy for the 2012 presidential election was a done deal, that his eventual campaign may even be unstoppable.

It is true that certain Socialist loyalists continued to harbor doubts about the 62-year-old’s capacity to embody the party’s values, about his free-market stance on the economy as illustrated by his IMF role, about his flamboyant lifestyle, or about his commitment to French political life. But his experience and undeniable skills seemed poised to largely counterbalance any of his alleged weaknesses, and his communication experts were expected to do the rest.

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