French Should Feel Shame, But We're No Puritans

Jonah Goldberg

5/20/2011 12:01:00 AM - Jonah Goldberg

Dominique Strauss-Kahn has resigned as the head of the International Monetary Fund. He would like to spend more time with his family.

But that's not why he resigned. He'd like to spend more time with his family because he's in jail, charged with the sexual assault and attempted rape of an African-immigrant hotel maid.

"DSK," as he's known in France, is socialist royalty and was the presumed shoo-in to beat Nicolas Sarkozy in next year's presidential race.

I had planned on taking the easy route and mocking the debauched and depraved (im)morality of the French, the arrogant and asinine sophistry of DSK's defenders, and the probability of his guilt.

For instance, Bernard-Henri Levy, the open-shirted "philosopher-activist," came out swinging, writing a defense of his friend for Tina Brown's website, The Daily Beast (of course). His case for DSK was the sort of thing a French villain might say in a screwball comedy, it was so incandescently stupid and offensive.

The gist of his brief: Who is this lowly woman to accuse a great man of such base acts? And how dare America's courts take her accusations seriously when it's her word against the great Strauss-Kahn's? According to Levy, the New York judge should be ashamed because he "pretended to take (DSK) for a subject of justice like any other." Translation: Do you Americans know who he is?

I hadn't realized there was an escape clause at the end of the French motto: "Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité (for the little people)!"

"If I try transposing the situation in New York on Sunday to France, I just can't do it," A French diversity expert tells Time magazine. "Not only because the woman is black and apparently an immigrant. But also because she's a housekeeper. Perhaps even more than her race, her station in society would probably prevent authorities (in France) from taking her accusations against a rich and powerful man seriously. Racism is on the rise here again, but class discrimination has never gone away."

And while I count myself blessed to live in a country where a poor maid from Guinea can have the head of the IMF dragged off a plane "simply" because she offered credible evidence she was sexually assaulted, I am not sure Americans should be congratulating themselves as much they are.

Yes, the French deserve to be mocked. A clear majority of French citizens believe this is all a conspiracy. Yet every day, it becomes ever more clear that the French -- particularly the French socialists who counted DSK as their leader -- turned a blind eye to the man's ever more risky and appalling behavior. According to mounting accounts, they wrote off assault as playful "seduction" or forgave it out of some kind of solidarity. (In one case an alleged DSK victim was talked out of pressing charges by her socialist-politician mother.)

And yes, the French left's attempt to turn this into a story of "American Puritanism" run amok is beyond absurd. Strauss-Kahn was arrested after fleeing his Times Square hotel, not a mega-church in Alabama. And, last I checked, the NYPD Special Victims Unit was not a hotbed of Amish and Mennonites.

But America is hardly so righteous. As blogger Will Collier notes, if you replaced "socialist" with "Democrat" in many of these stories, and "Dominique Strauss-Kahn" with "Ted Kennedy," the results would be pretty illuminating.

After Chappaquiddick, the liberal establishment did its best to cover up a potential homicide by the "liberal lion." It offered something close to a Gallic shrug when Sens. Kennedy and Chris Dodd made a "waitress sandwich" out of an unsuspecting restaurant server. And as Christopher Hitchens recalls in Slate, Teddy's priapic brother John was such a "seducer" he imported "a Mafia gun-moll into the White House sleeping quarters."

If memory serves, Bill Clinton had to deal with a large number of "bimbo eruptions," as one of his aides put it. He was accused of sexual assault and sexual harassment. And the same feminists who once insisted that women never make such things up suddenly responded by calling the president's accusers liars or by simply abandoning the very standards they had established.

Gloria Steinem, the feminist icon and founder of Ms. Magazine, took to the pages of the New York Times to establish what has become known as the "one free grope" rule. Susan Faludi, author of the feminist bible "Backlash," suddenly took a more laissez-faire attitude toward sexual aggression, requiring "nuanced" responses "in scale to the offense." A reporter for Time magazine insisted she'd be happy to pleasure the president just for keeping abortion legal.

So yes, the French should be ashamed. But they're not the only ones.