15 JUNE 2011


Le Canard Enchaine, the French satirical weekly, had a front page cartoon where a bellboy tells a receptionist: "He could have paid for the most beautiful prostitute in town yet he sexually assaulted the poor cleaning maid." The knowledgeable concierge responds: "Then, he must be a Leftist." On the other hand, as economists would hasten to say, a certain Madam in New York indicated that Dominique Strauss-Kahn did resort to a highly paid service at least twice. Whether he would still maintain his socialist credentials is a separate question.

No doubt, the French Socialist Party will find its own presidential candidate, and DSK's rude friends like BHL and JL, together with a P.R. firm funded by his enormously rich wife would try to reinstate him at least in the Parisian salons. After all, as Jacques Lang, a former Culture Minister (yes, Culture), has explained: "it's not like anyone was killed." What directly concerns us is the badly tarnished image of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), a key member of the U.N. system, and a crucial player in handling one of the worst stages facing the international financial system. The morale of the staff -- particularly women -- and potential nervousness during field teamwork are already in regrettable shape.

Did the Director General of IMF think of the damage he has done? To his institution? To the International system? To his own professional performance? Let alone his own family (think of his young daughter Camille introduced first to his attempted rape of a former classmate in Paris, and now being introduced to the glare of N.Y. and world media. As to his wife, Anne Sinclair, she is apparently fortified by years of experience.

There are so many questions.

Is Dominique Strauss-Kahn as clever as he was made to be? Didn't it occur to him that the behaviour of someone with his stature in Washington, D.C., and on the world's financial stage would be so closely monitored? Why did he make an international public fool of himself? Did he think he could get away with it, like "Don't you know who I am, baby?"

Someone who is running a very delicate world institution and aspiring to become president of one of the most key countries in today's world should know that he was subject to some sort of technological surveillance. If it was a trap -- as some of his friends could claim -- why did he volunteer to fall into it?

Anyway, no French official could be able to weave such an elaborate sting, as some DFK defenders seem to hint; it is impossible to involve the New York police, hotel management, and a maid from Guinea in one presumed "plot" over a Saturday afternoon. Besides, France's President Sarkozy, a former Minister of Interior, would already have so many vulnerabilities on his presumed competitor in next year's elections that he would have welcomed the competition with him and nobody else because he would most likely self-destruct days before voting day.

Again, our concern is IMF. It's Board may have been more strict in handling the first incident raised weeks after the "Didi Lamoroso" took over. A slight slap to the wrist, a politically correct apology may have led him to believe that he could get away with his behaviour, even in the capital of the U.S.

Perhaps one of the main challenges for his successor will be to restore the reputation of the IMF, rebuild morale among its staff, and revive the close teamwork among its men and women in the field.

After problems created by two men, one in the World Bank and another in IMF, it may be time for a woman.