WASHINGTON -- Readers of this column will remember that when Dominique Strauss-Kahn was taken off an Air France flight in May, just as it was about to vamoose for Paris, I was suspicious. The story and circumstances of his adventure with the chambermaid, Nafissatou Diallo, in the Sofitel Hotel kept changing.
In the meantime, he was accorded the indignity of the perp walk. He was sent to Rickers Island, a veritable hellhole. He got up on the morning of May 14 as one of the world's most distinguished public servants. He was head of the International Monetary Fund, IMF, and apparently about to become the Socialist Party's frontrunner for the president of France. He retired that evening a convicted felon in the eyes of almost anyone familiar with his story, and I suspect slept badly.
Yet there were a handful of us who were holdouts. We said he was, according to American legal standards, innocent until proven guilty. Well, now charges against him have been dropped. He is a free man, and he and his wife flew back to Paris on Air France, flight 007. There was a smile on his face, but I wonder what was going on behind that smile. The devil take the hindmost Frenchman was still facing civil charges here and possible rape charges in France. Moreover, he was unemployed, out on his ear at the IMF and an unlikely Socialist candidate for anything at home. As Chantal Brunel of President Nicolas Sarkozy's party told Agence France-Presse, Strauss-Kahn "is going to be an indelible stain on the Socialist Party." She speculated that he "will harm the chances" of his party's presidential candidate.
Actually, at France's Charles de Gaulle airport there was a mad crush. His fans were there with his enemies, the press, the police and a singer. Yes, one fellow made a scene by singing Verdi. I wondered about him. What aria did he sing? Is there one about a rake accosting a chambermaid or even better, a chambermaid deflowering a statesman? That would make a great modern variation for Verdi. And how good a voice did the romantic fellow actually have?