Names in the News

Paul Greenberg
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Posted: Sep 21, 2011 12:01 AM

Dear Dominique Strauss-Kahn, familiarly known as just DSK in haute-financial and political circles:

I owe you an apology.

I could scarcely keep myself from smirking when you were accused of sexually assaulting a chambermaid in one of those upscale hotels in Manhattan that no working stiff could ever afford. My chronic case of Francophobia went into overdrive.

The news story felt like a stereotype come to oh-so-satisfying life, validating my most cherished prejudices. Oh, I could just visualize the headlines in the tabloid presses:

DSK Nabbed!/ Pulled off his flight and jailed.

Power-Broker, Financier and Roue-in-chief Under Arrest

Next socialist president of France in custody/ after assaulting humble maid/unable to defend herself....

But now the case against M. Strauss-Kahn has fallen apart, with the New York district attorney's office expressing doubts about the maid's truthfulness and certainly about any chances of obtaining a conviction.

To quote the D.A.'s office: "In virtually every substantive interview with prosecutors, despite entreaties to simply be truthful, she has not been truthful, on matters great and small, many pertaining to her background and some relating to the circumstances of the incident itself."

The only questionable aspect about the prosecutors' decision to drop the case is why it took them so long.

But looking back, the person who's disappointed me most throughout this whole long, sordid affair has been ... myself.

After all these years in the business, you'd think I'd have learned to look at the evidence before leaping to the nearest conclusion. I hadn't.

M. Strauss-Kahn may be guilty, as he put it, of a "moral failing" (who isn't?) but that doesn't make him a criminal. Not until and unless a court says so.

My apologies to you, monsieur, and to the whole French nation for what I was thinking, and almost wrote. I hereby tender it -- in writing.

I won't do that again. I hope.

The Rev. Mr. Al Sharpton is back in the news. He's been chosen as host of MSNBC's weeknight news show, "PoliticsNation." With him in charge, it's bound to be more show than news. And the show won't be complete without a guest appearance by another name from his unfortunate past, Tawana Brawley. (See under Tawana Brawley Hoax on your nearest Internet site.) Both the Reverend and his client lost the defamation case that followed.

Or the Rev. Al could reminisce about his role in the Crown Point riots two decades ago, where his skills as an agitator shone, or at least glared.

Or he could talk about his taxes. Is he still in arrears with the IRS?

Inquiring minds want to know.

Or maybe they don't.

Let's face it: Yesterday's race hustler has a way of becoming today's self-promoting bore. See the rise and slow, slow, decades-long fall of Jesse Jackson into televised tedium.

If the Reverend Al turns out to be a flop as a television star, MSNBC can always find someone more fiery waiting in the wings. Louis Farrakhan, perhaps?

Fidel Castro still lives, which means Cuba still languishes. The old caudillo's 85th birthday was reported just the other day, another proof that the good die young.

Bernie Sanders, the only socialist in the U.S. Senate -- well, the only avowed socialist -- has come up with a cure for the blues now haunting Barack Obama's campaign for another term in the White House. What the president needs, says the senator, is an opponent in the Democratic primaries, someone with "a progressive agenda."

Uh huh. The way Teddy Kennedy assured another presidential term for Jimmy Carter by challenging him in 1980. Or how Gene McCarthy's entrance into the presidential race in 1968 got Lyndon Johnson re-elected that year. There is no surer precursor of a president's defeat than a strong challenge in his party's primaries.

But there's no doubt Bernie Saunders knows a lot about politics -- in Vermont.

John Roberts, the chief justice of the United States, has come out against televising arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court because some of the lawyers appearing before it, or justices on it, might play to the cameras. Because they "unfortunately fall into grandstanding with a couple hundred people in the courtroom."

What? Lawyers who grandstand? Shocking.

What next, will fishermen tell lies and politicians engage in demagoguery?

What's this world coming to?

Call this last news item Dollars for Donuts:

"Nicholas Mercurio, Lukas Peterson and Charles Iliffe, all of Hyannis, Mass., face charges of armed robbery after authorities say they entered a Dunkin' Donuts, masked and carrying knives and a hatchet, and made off with a paper bag that they thought held the day's receipts but actually held donuts."

Ah, sweet justice.