Does French Left Really Believe DSK Comeback Talk?

No sooner had a judge in New York accepted the recommendation of the Manhattan district attorney’s office that the assault charges against Dominique Strauss-Kahn be dropped than talk of a political comeback by the former International Monetary Fund chief started again.  In a front-page story on Aug. 23, the Financial Times reported the dropping of the internationally watched case as “handing the victory” to the man known as DSK and “opening the door for his possible return to French politics.”

Also weighing in with praise for the 62-year-old Strauss-Kahn were the candidates for nomination for president by the Socialist Party—a nomination considered DSK’s for the asking until his sensational arrest May 14th on charges of assaulting a hotel maid in New York.

Francois Hollande, considered a leading contender in the Oct. 9 Socialist primary, told reporters last week that the path to France’s presidency could still be open to Strauss-Kahn if he chose. 

“It’s an immense relief,” echoed presidential hopeful and former Socialist General Secretary (Chairman) Martine Aubry, adding that “we were all waiting for this, for him to finally be able to get out of this nightmare.”  Like Hollande, Aubry believes it is up to Strauss-Kahn to determine his next political move.

“A happy outcome,” is how acting Socialist Party Chairman Harlem Desir proclaimed the end of the Strauss-Kahn criminal case.

France’s national philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy, the pivotal figure in convincing President Nicolas Sarkozy to line up behind the Libyan freedom fighters, has been outspoken in defending DSK.  “Utterly grotesque” is how he described the treatment of the French politician by New York authorities, likening it to how the French Revolution’s notorious Robespierre treated opponents. 

All of this “Bravo, DSK!” cheering comes as the Socialists gather in the seaside town of New Rochelle for their national convention this weekend.  Could the party possibly vote to change its rules and reopen the filing deadline for the October primary that closed back in July, and thus  permit Strauss-Kahn to become a candidate in the nomination fight barely six weeks away? 

The answer to this is, very clearly, no way, no how, and the resulting questions are 1) why do Socialist Party leaders and thinkers such as Henri-Levy fan the flames of a DSK comeback that won’t happen and 2) why do respectable publications such as the Financial Times give it credibility by reporting it?

Not Out of the Woods Yet

During the three months of what he called a “nightmare,” Strauss-Kahn lost timing for a campaign he appeared to be poised for and, in the process, lost considerable support.  The “DSK orphans”—enthusiasts for a presidential bid by Strauss-Kahn who had to turn to another candidate after May 14th—are not likely to suddenly switch back to their former hero, even if he decides to run.  Moreover, cobbling together a campaign to win a nomination in six weeks would be a major undertaking for any politician—least of all someone who has been through what DSK has.

More significantly, while much of the political and intellectual class portrays Strauss-Kahn as vindicated by the events of last week, the Guardian pointed out, “He has not been exonerated, as a commentator on French television falsely claimed last night [Aug. 22].  He has been freed on a technicality, albeit a vital one.”  And he still faces a civil case in New York launched by accuser Nafissatou Diallo as well as charges in Paris from fiction writer, Tristane Bohan, of an assault against her in 2003.

Strauss-Kahn, to use a well-worn phrase, “is not out of the woods yet.”

Even if he became a candidate, the former finance minister would find a old dilemma that has long dogged him—that he is a “caviar socialist” with next-to-nothing in common with his party’s left-wing grassroots—now exacerbated by the spotlight shined on him during his New York ordeal.  As the Guardian noted of Strauss-Kahn and heiress-wife Anne Sinclair, “That they were paying more than £30,000 a month for a Manhattan townhouse, £170,000 a month for detectives and lawyers, and had produced more than £3.5 million in bail guarantees, sat uneasily with some Socialists.”

You get the picture.  Dominique Strauss-Kahn can’t and probably won’t get into the presidential race next year, or politics in general for a long time.  As to why respectable press organs continue to speculate about it, one could offer the old excuse of a slow news week, except that with the earthquake tremors in the U.S. and the triumph of Libya’s freedom fighters, it wasn’t.