You've got to imagine Dominique Strauss-Kahn is pretty burned up about the new French president. That was supposed to be, maybe, his job—but for some incidents in America, and some others abroad. (A year ago, on May 14, Strauss-Kahn was almost 20 points ahead of then-French president and rival Nicolas Sarkozy in the polls. We all know what followed, at the Sofitel in New York City.) So, what does a person do when they're angry about a turn of events, something they don't accept full responsibility for, something they may deny altogether? Sometimes, they play the victim card.
The new French president François Hollande was sworn in on Tuesday. Also on Tuesday, it was reported that DSK is suing Nafissatou Diallo, the Sofitel maid who accused him of sexual assaulting her last May. Diallo's criminal case against him was dismissed, but she has filed a civil suit asking for damages for his “violent and deplorable acts.” In Strauss-Kahn's countersuit, filed in New York state Supreme Court in the Bronx, he alleges that Diallo "knowingly made a 'malicious and wanton' false accusation," reports Bloomberg's Chris Dolmetsch, and is seeking at least $1 million "malicious prosecution, abuse of process, false imprisonment, defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress." A lawyer for Diallo responded that this is yet another piece of evidence of Strauss-Kahn's "misogynistic attitude."
As is the way with news, what happened last spring and summer almost seems ancient history now: The tawdry, awful charges and what followed in the press; Strauss-Kahn camped out in his Tribeca apartment during his time of house arrest; the eventual dismissal of the case (and that earthquake during the press briefing). Part of that is because new scandals featuring the former IMF head/man who could have been a presidential contender continue to emerge. He's been declared a pimp, possibly. There is alleged involvement in a prostitution ring. There are other accusations of rape, including gang-rape. He's had his mortifying text conversations about, allegedly, prostitutes, disseminated across the Internet.
But DSK has not forgotten what he did last summer, that's clear. He's lost his job, not only the possible presidency, but also his role at the IMF. Sure, he's mad. And so, he's countersuing, and he's talking to reporters (Edward Jay Epstein in particular, who's written a book about the DSK affair) who can explain things like this to the public:
In the more than two hours we speak, it becomes clear that Strauss-Kahn is convinced that his downfall was choreographed by his political enemies. They may not have gone so far as to set up the encounter with Diallo, he now accepts, but he believes they did play a role, through intercepted phone calls, in making sure that the hotel maid went to the police and thus turned a private tryst into a public scandal.
The media in France has recently reported, based on interviews with French intelligence officers, that he had become a target of the country's intelligence service in 2011. I ask him whether he believes the targeting of him by French intelligence, the interception of his calls, and the surveillance in New York are related. "It would appear that more was involved here than mere coincidence," he replies, with characteristic understatement.
Will accusations of a conspiracy and playing victim work, though? It's hard to say. It's also hard to say what exactly Strauss-Kahn wants to achieve with this. He doesn't "need" the $1 million, surely (or maybe, with all the legal fees, he does?). Does he want to clear his name? Make others suffer? Stage a comeback? Just get Europeans to like him again? A successful lawsuit against Diallo would help make the point that he's not the bad guy here, at least, not in this instance; an unsuccessful law suit gets the point across that he feels he's been harmed, too. There's already a wave of conspiracy theories for him to play into—it was a trap, it was Sarkozy's fault, it was America's fault, and so on. Maybe the best or simply the only strategy is one of victimhood.
Yet we all know that the scandal involving Diallo is not the only threat to Strauss-Kahn's "good" name; one of the most comparatively "innocent" strikes against him is that he admitted to cheating on his wife by having what he said was consensual sex with Diallo. That alone taints him forever in the eyes of certain Americans. But as the refrain goes, the French are different?
Interestingly, part of what tore down the criminal case against Strauss-Kahn was Diallo's lack of credibility as victim. Now, perhaps, the shoe is on the other foot.