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Sunday 28 August 2011

Philanderer DSK casts Berlusconi in a better light

The attitude of the ex-IMF chief to women makes one think kindly of Berlusconi, writes Ruth Dudley Edwards

MY favourite comment on the scandal about Dominique Strauss-Kahn (aka DSK) was made by Bernard-Henry Levy (aka BHL).

The economist, lawyer and politician DSK and the philosopher BHL are fortunate to be prominent in a country where intellectuals are considered sexy and socialists can live in luxury with impunity, for they both love sex and the good life. DSK's third wife, Anne Sinclair, once a famous television journalist, is filthy rich. BHL has a great deal of inherited wealth; his third wife is an extremely glamorous actress and singer.

Politically, DSK has always been of the left. He narrowly missed being the socialist candidate in the 2007 election, and although President Sarkozy cleverly got him out of the way by backing him for the job of managing director of the IMF, he was tipped to be his chief challenger in the 2012 presidential election. BHL, who was for a time a scourge of Marxism, now votes for the Socialist Party.

When DSK was led in handcuffs into a New York courthouse, accused of having assaulted a chamber-maid, Nafissatou Diallo, BHL got into a right old state. "The Strauss-Kahn I know, who has been my friend for 20 years and who will remain my friend, bears no resemblance to this monster, this caveman, this insatiable and malevolent beast now being described nearly everywhere. Charming, seductive, yes, certainly; a friend to women and, first of all, to his own woman, naturally; but this brutal and violent individual, this wild animal, this primate, obviously no, it's absurd."

Apparently it didn't occur to this distinguished intellectual that he was hardly in a position to know how DSK behaved in private. But clever people can be terrible eejits.

The French left didn't know what to think and they didn't deal with it well. For a time there were dark murmurings about a set-up orchestrated by the right, but it didn't carry conviction. Mostly, the men were uneasy that this might have a devastating effect on the much-prized French tolerance of sexual libertinism. "He just lifted the skirt of a servant," shrugged the left-wing journalist Jean-Francois Kahn. Senior socialist politician, Jack Lang, protested that DSK should have been granted bail, as no one was dead. But while the men spoke admiringly of DSK as 'the great seducer', the women began to gossip about his sexual rapaciousness.

DSK wasn't just NSIT (Not Safe in Taxis), he was allegedly NS in elevators, offices, gardens or, indeed, hotel rooms.

Then came the accusation from the journalist Tristane Banon that when she asked for an interview with DSK in 2003, he met her in an apartment empty except for a bed and a video camera. She told her mother, Anne Mansouret, that he had attacked her violently like "a rutting chimpanzee", but as a Socialist Party stalwart, Mansouret persuaded her not to go the police. She did, though, tell Francoise Hollande, then party secretary and now its front-runner for the 2012 nomination, who did nothing.

Mansouret did not at the time tell either her daughter or Hollande that she had had sex with DSK in 2000 in his office: it was consensual, she said, but he acted with 'the obscenity 'of a soldier.

Banon had been interviewing DSK for a book about politicians' greatest errors. Well this may be one of his and he will have to face the allegations in a French court.

I've read in full the Manhattan prosecutor's explanation of why the charges against DSK have been dropped. I understand why Diallo is thought to be a bad witness, for she lied to gain asylum, has committed petty fraud and has dodgy acquaintances. But though she is illiterate, poor and scared, her employers of three years find her reliable, her colleagues believed implicitly her story of being violently attacked, and because of DNA evidence, no one questions that there was a sexual encounter in Suite 2806 between 14.06, when she went there to clean it, and 14.13, when DSK made a call.

Diallo had semen on her clothes and had spat it out on to the carpet. We are asked to believe it credible that confronted by a naked 62-year-old stranger, the 32-year-old Diallo instantly agreed to give him a blow job. Will BHL and French socialist men accept that story and greet the home-comer as a hero?

This makes me feel kindly about Silvio Berlusconi. Like DSK, he is obsessed with women. However while DSK is the type of philanderer who hates them, Berlusconi adores their company and is kind to them. Both are in trouble with the law over their sex lives. It's hard not to hope that women wreak revenge on DSK and his ilk, but that Berlusconi lives to bunga-bunga another day.

Ruth Dudley Edwards

© Ruth Dudley Edwards