Raphaëlle Bacqué and Ariane Chemi are two of France’s most respected reporters, and they’ve just published a book about that strangest of politicians, the ersatz socialist and genuine serial philander Dominique Strauss-Kahn and his strange relationship with his journalist-spouse.
Before his run-in with a maid in a $5,000-a-night New York hotel room, DSK [as he is popularly known] was on track to become his party’s nominee to run against Nicolas Sarkozy.
But his arrest in New York, subsequently dismissed, led to the death of his political ambitions, his resignation as director of the International Monetary Fund, and the revelation of frequent encounters with prostitutes both in Europe and the U.S.
More criminal charges followed, as well as the most interesting criminal defense we’ve seen yet.
Defending his client to the press after DSK’s arrest on organized crime charges for his alleged involvement in orgies, lawyer Henri Leclerc said his client had no way of knowing all those women were prostitutes because they were always unclad. “I defy you to tell the difference between a naked prostitute and any other naked woman,” said Leclerc.
DSK, Sarko, and a strange nocturnal encounter
France 24 runs a telling excerpt from the book, Les Strauss-Kahn, describing one of DSK’s riskier sexual encounters and Sarkozy’s strange response:
One night, a police officer came across several cars stopped in the middle of a road that ran through the park. From the fogged-up windows, it looked as though there were many people inside. The police officer tapped on one of the cars’ windows, and a door opened. Dominique Strauss-Kahn was among its occupants.
Was there a written account of the incident that was later destroyed in a paper shredder? Was the mere story enough? One thing is sure: When Alain Gardère [head of public safety in Paris], told the story to the minister and his cabinet director, Claude Guéant, Sarkozy laughed uncontrollably, unable to stop himself (…).
“In the summer of 2007, [Sarkozy, who was by then president] met with [Strauss-Kahn] just before his departure for the IMF, but did not allude to the secret ‘affair’ that made him burst out laughing months earlier. Even though DSK’s appointment appeared to be well underway, Nicolas Sarkozy reiterated his orders that nothing be said (..): ‘He will undoubtedly get the IMF [position]. Let’s keep it between us, hunh?’
Far from trying to impede the Socialist politician, [Sarkozy] chose to protect [Strauss-Kahn’s] reputation.
Sex, drugs, and the political beast
A plethora of politicians prefer prostitutes.
It’s a matter of simple logic.
Politicians, especially ones who are well known, are what an old cop we knew once called “pussy magnets,” and especially if [unlike DSK], they’re handsome.
Constantly faced with sexual possibilities, some politicians simply give in, and that, as former Democratic rising star John Edwards discovered, can lead to disaster.
It used to be a lot simpler, as was the case with John F. Kennedy, whose rambunctious sexcapades used to give the Secret Service headaches. In the memorable phrase of a former Secret Service agent, “JFK did more drilling than Texaco,” with conquests ranging from a suspected Nazi spy to a mistress shared with Chicago mob boss Sam Giancana, Hollywood luminaries [Marilyn Monroe, Rhonda Fleming, etc.], and even a White House intern.
That’s the problem with sex with amateurs, as Hart discovered: It’s liable to blow up on you.
But there are other reasons politicians have tended to favor professional sex, and that’s the lack of complications and romantic entanglements. Sex is reduced to pure biology, forgotten once the pol has made his exit.
And for that reason there have always been high end providers willing to provide service with discretion.
Back in the days when we covered courts in L.A., we got off-the-record looks at some “trick books” seized in police prostitution raids, and saw a few very prominent names — along with unlisted phone numbers. “They always throw them in to give us a warning,” said one prosecutor. And somehow those books never got entered at trial.
Later on, when we were working for the Sacramento Bee, a well-placed friend in law enforcement tipped us to a rather posh brothel in town that catered to members of the state legislature and other well-placed people.
After doing a little digging — enough to prove the accuracy of the report — we proposed a story to our editor, who simply shook his head.
Politicians have been paying prostitutes from time immemorial.
DSK’s problems stem not from using hookers, but that old-fashion reputation-slayer hubris.
The other question is why didn’t Sarkozy act? Two answers suggest themselves: First, it gave him inside knowledge and a weapon to use against a political rival, and, probably more important, he knew full well that using sex against a rival party could well result in similar allegations about his own political fold.
Politics is, after all, only the second-oldest profession.