Back when he was still the officially designated Next President of France and not an accused rapist, Dominique Strauss-Kahn was glimpsed at the annual IMF soccer tournament wearing a T-shirt emblazoned “YES, WE KAHN!” (Monsieur le directeur was not participating in the game: The field he likes to play requires more horizontal exertions, as even the deferential and protective French media have begun belatedly to acknowledge.) In consciously mimicking the slogan of another and very successful presidential candidate, the IMF boss and Socialist Party candidate improved upon it – or, at any rate, made it more accurate. “Yes, We Can”? Er, no, actually, you can’t. But yes, he Kahn!
A man is innocent until presumed guilty, and it will be for a New York court to determine what happened in M Strauss-Kahn’s suite at the Sofitel. It may well be that’s he the hapless victim of a black Muslim widowed penniless refugee maid – although, if that’s the defense my lawyer were proposing to put before a Manhattan jury, I’d be inclined to suggest he’s the one who needs to plead insanity. Whatever the head of the IMF did or didn’t do, the reaction of the French elites is most instructive. “We and the Americans do not belong to the same civilization,” sniffed Jean Daniel, editor of Le Nouvel Observateur, insisting that the police should have known that Strauss-Kahn was “not like other men” and wondering why “this chambermaid was regarded as worthy and beyond any suspicion”. Bernard-Henri Lévy, the open-shirted hairy-chested Gallic intellectual who talked Sarkozy into talking Obama into launching the Libyan war, is furious at the lèse-majesté of this impertinent serving girl and the jackanapes of America’s “absurd” justice system, not to mention this ghastly “American judge who, by delivering him to the crowd of photo hounds, pretended to take him for a subject of justice like any other”.
Well, okay. Why shouldn’t DSK (as he’s known in France) be treated as “a subject of justice like any other”? Because, says BHL (as he’s known in France), of everything that Strauss-Kahn has done at the IMF to help the world “avoid the worst”. In particular, he has made the IMF “more favorable to proletarian nations and, among the latter, to the most fragile and vulnerable”. What is one fragile and vulnerable West African maid when weighed in the scales of history against entire fragile and vulnerable proletarian nations? Yes, he Kahn!
Before you scoff at Euro-lefties willing to argue for 21st century droit de seigneur, recall the grisly eulogies for the late Edward Kennedy. “At the end of the day,” said Senator Evan Bayh, “he cared most about the things that matter to ordinary people.” The standard line of his obituarists was that this was Ted’s penance for Chappaquiddick and Mary Jo Kopechne – or, as the Aussie columnist Tim Blair put it, “She died so that the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act might live.” Great men who are prone to Big Government invariably have Big Appetites, and you comely serving wenches who catch the benign sovereign’s eye or anything else he’s shooting your way should keep in mind the Big Picture. Yes, Ted Ken!
Nor are such dispensations confined to Great Men’s trousers. Timothy Geithner failed to pay the taxes he owed the United States Treasury but that’s no reason not to make him head of the United States Treasury. His official explanation for this lapse was that, unlike losers like you, he was unable to follow the simple yes/no prompts of Turbo Tax: In that sense, unlike the Frenchman and the maid, Geithner’s defense is that she wasn’t asking for it – or, if she was, he couldn’t understand the question. Nevertheless, just as only Dominique could save the European economy, so only Timmy could save the US economy. Yes, they Kahn!
How’s that working out? In the US, Geithner is currently running around bleating that we need to raise the $14 trillion debt ceiling another couple of trillion. On the Continent, the IMF, an institution most westerners vaguely assume is there as a last resort for Third World basket cases, is intimately involved in the ever more frantic efforts to save the Euro from collapse. Good thing we had these two indispensable men on the case, or who knows how bad things would be.
The arrest of a mediocre international civil servant in the first class cabin of his jet isn’t just a sex story: It’s a glimpse of the widening gulf between the government class and their subjects in a post-prosperity west. Neither Geithner nor Strauss-Kahn have ever created a dime of wealth in their lives. They have devoted their careers to “public service”, and thus are in the happy position of rarely if ever having to write a personal check. At the Sofitel in New York, DSK was in a $3,000-per-night suite. Was the IMF picking up the tab? If so, you the plucky US taxpayer paid around 550 bucks of that, whereas Strauss-Kahn’s fellow Frenchmen put up less than $150. So if, as Le Nouvel Observateur suggests, France and America really do belong in entirely different civilizations, the French one ought to start looking for a new patron for the heroic DSK’s lifestyle.
Full disclosure: I’ve often stayed at the Sofitel myself, though without billing western taxpayers for the pleasure. Nor do I generally require the three-grand suite. Given how comfortable the Sofitel’s more modest accommodations are, I wonder whether even M Strauss-Kahn does. Especially when he’s presiding over an IMF with a budget deficit of some $400 million. But perhaps it would be unreasonable to ask so famously unzippered a man to tighten his belt. After all, according to Ben Stein, my former colleague at The American Spectator, DSK is “one of the most recognizable people on the planet”. Many’s the time I’ve seen him exiting a swank restaurant with Justin Bieber and Lindsay Lohan and said, “Hey, there’s Dominique Strauss-Kahn with Wossname and Thingummy!”
Fortunately, when the burdens of recognizability get too great, M Strauss-Kahn is able to retreat to his house in Washington, or his apartment in Paris, or his second apartment in Paris, or his riad in Marrakesh. Oh, c’mon, you provincial bozos: A “riad” is a palatial Moorish residence built around an interior courtyard. Everyone knows that. A lifetime of devoted “public service” in “socialist” France isn’t yet as remunerative as in Mubarak’s Egypt or Saddam’s Iraq, but we’re getting there. As the developed world drowns under the weight of Big Government, the gilded princelings of statism will hunker down in their interior courtyards and guard their privileges ever more zealously. Once in a while, as in that Manhattan hotel suite, a chance encounter between the seigneurs and their subjects will go awry, but more often, as in the Geithner confirmation, it will be understood that the Great Men of the Permanent Governing Class cannot be bound by the rules they impose on the rest of you schmucks.
Yes, they Kahn. You, not so much. After Charlie Rangel, chair of the House committee that writes America’s tax laws, was “censured” by Congress for multiple infractions of, er, America’s tax laws, a Washington Times reporter invited him to imagine what punishment the “average American citizen” would have received had he done what the Congressman did. “Please,” Rangel told her. “I don’t deal in average American citizens.”
©MARK STEYN 2011