By Dr. Jeffrey Lant
Author’s program note. In 1969 The Guess Who recorded a catchy little number, an insidious bit of fluff that all of a sudden you find yourself whistling in a crowded elevator. Tunes can grab you that way, you know; this one surely does… and its catchy lyrics too. These lyrics are spot on for today’s article… for, verily, the New York hotel maid at the center of this matter has well and truly come undone; the woman who hoped to put French presidential candidate Strauss-Kahn away may be headed that way herself whilst the man she charged may end up in the Elysee Palace yet.
It’s one of the greatest political stories ever. After you’ve found the tune in any search engine and listened to it a couple of times, you’ll be ready to dig into this…
Adam and Eve-like, it all started with one man and one woman. So far, both parties agree. Any other facts they can agree on? Just this: that she was the maid…. and came to clean and fluff the gentleman’s room in the New York hotel where he was staying.
The parties agree on nothing else, thereby proving yet again what every crime author knows: that when there are only two people who know the facts, not only will they not agree… but the truth will be crushed amidst the endless charges and countercharges as the story morphs so that what each eye witness says bears absolutely no resemblance to what the other is saying. Still, we can make some very educated deductions.
1) Dominique Strauss-Kahn, head of the International Monetary Fund until May 18, 2011 is accustomed to hanging out with heads of state, ministers of finance, and the highest-level diplomats. Thus he was probably up to no good that fateful day of the incident; that’s why he was staying where he was staying. Covering his tracks that day was a priority; after all, he was a candidate for President de la Republique.
2) He may well have jumped out of his bathroom stark naked, the better to impress the object of his (very temporary) affections; if so, it shows a man deluded by his magnitude, for truly with that embonpoint, his salad days are well and truly over. But you must remember, he was surrounded by flunkies always at the ready to say, “Oui, m. le ministre….”
3) The maid, who says she was raped, was not the blushing rose originally portrayed… she may have had financial gain on the brain. This would have been the more shocking had not every denizen of Manhattan been conniving their own chicaneries that day. Hey, it’s not cheap to live in the Big Apple, and you’ve got to get those bucks however you can… So may the maid have reckoned when a very big fish with unlimited financial resources at his disposal fell in her net. No wonder she started dreaming big… and talking fast.
First, in her mandated role as “good girl”, she told her employers. Now, remember, this is Manhattan and every man except for a couple of thugs on 42nd Street have now been trained in the rudiments of feminist philosophy. This is especially true of all law enforcement personnel. These now lean over backwards to accommodate the woman. After all they definitely don’t want Gloria Allred, Esq., feminist avenger, on their tails. Anything but that…
Thus, when Manhattan district attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr. and his prosecuting team were made aware of this matter (which happened, you’ll remember, with record-breaking celerity), they may have had this paradigm in mind: big man rapes helpless woman of color, then hightails it back to Paris (of all places), there to resume his privileged life of luxury, excess, and deceptions. Oh, yes, that man HAD to be stopped or, by golly, he’d be President of France and it would be THEIR fault.
And so, in the best tradition of those fast-moving films about high level treachery and intrigue, the arresting agent grabbed Dominique Strauss-Kahn in his first- class seat, just as the doors were closing on his freedom flight to Paris… whew! They had their culprit… and the media of the world endlessly ran the arrest photos of the man well ahead in the race to become titan of Europe, preserver of la belle France and its immemorial traditions, confidant of God.
As these photos ran, Dominique’s “friends” did, too… After all, he had a long tradition as an aggressive skirt-chaser; he’d had problems before. Thus, his IMF colleagues fired him at once… showing their sensitivity by appointing a woman, Christine LaGarde, as his successor. Things reached a low indeed, the most abject low, when Strauss-Kahn was shackled, just like a drug lord with decapitations on his rap sheet… the prosecutors had their man and they made the most of his humiliation and their triumph.
But it all rested on the testimony of one woman…. and herein was the weakness.
The more they questioned the maid, the more nervous the prosecutors became.
Item: 32 years old, she had committed a host of minor frauds, all designed to enhance her new life in the United States. These frauds took place over the seven years since she’d arrived from Guinea. She lied on immigration paperwork, cheated on her taxes, and misstated her income so she could get an apartment reserved for the poor.
Item: Prosecutors acknowledged that there were “troubling” revelations and “glaring” inconsistencies in her various accounts. For instance, she lied about what happened after her encounter with Strauss-Kahn in his hotel room. She initially said that after she had been attacked she waited in the hallway until Strauss-Kahn left the room. She later admitted that after the episode,she cleaned a nearby room, then returned to Strauss-Kahn’s suite. Only after that did she inform her employer.
Item: (and perhaps the most telling of all), days after her testimony and her testimony alone had put Strauss-Kahn in the pokey, prosecutors knew this: a few days following Strauss-Kahn’s arrest she had made a telephone call to her main squeeze. He helped her fabricate a statement and memorize it. This included a false story that she had been gang raped in Guinea. More troubling was the phone call where she suggested Strauss-Kahn was ripe for the plucking. Her boyfriend was interested; after all in an Arizona jail he had time on his hands… and had to make up for the 400 pounds of marijuana which had been confiscated… He needed money, too.
As the drip-drip-drip of inaccurate, misleading, false information came from the main, no longer a blushing rose, the case against Strauss-Kahn waned. The man may not have been, probably was not, innocent; but had the perfect accuser: one who handed him the grand gift of plausible deniability. The judge released him…
…. to re-emerge, the cognoscenti say, as a prime presidential candidate again.
If he pulls it off, it’ll be a tale of Second Coming import. He’s bruised, of course, and he looked like what he is: an aging, rather inept lothario; that must be, they say, his German side, so unchic.
But he’s got a splendid ace in the hole… the picture of a dejected man, unnecessarily, humiliatingly shackled. That outraged the French who are just capable of electing Strauss-Kahn for spite; sticking it to New York, Washington, feminist zealots everywhere… and particularly Vance, Jr. and his rush-to-judgement team.
Vance mishandled this from the beginning. Why? Because he forgot that you are innocent until proven guilty and should be treated accordingly. That’s the American way and it’s the right way. If he’d gone ahead on this basis, he could have proceeded with his work, discovering the facts as they emerged. He didn’t do this and so gave New York and its justice system a black eye. Now it’s too late and he’s come undone.