Monday, April 30, 2012

Tidbits from La Seduction: dinner with uncuddly Rupert, titters over DSK

Elaine Sciolino's La Seduction: How the French Play the Game of Life, published all of eleven months ago, sheds occasional interesting sidelights on events of the past year. One is the m.o. of Rupert Murdoch.  Writing of the strenuous efforts of Jean-David Levitte, France's ambassador to the U.S. during the runup to war in Iraq, to repair France's image in the U.S. after the French declined to join Bush's invading coalition. Here's Levitt's version of dinner with Rupert:
Most of his work went nowhere. The most brutal attacks came from Fox News, which night after night drove home the point that America had saved France from tyranny in World War II and that the French were traitorous ingrates and supporters of terrorism. At one point former secretary of state Henry Kissinger tried to mend fences by arranging a dinner at his home for Levitte and Rupert Murdoch, the owner of Fox. “I asked Murdoch to stop the French bashing,” Levitte claimed. “He looked at me coldly and said, ‘As long as it sells, I will continue’ I spent the rest of the evening charming his lovely wife, Wendy  (p. 268).
I guess we only have Levitt's side of this conversation, but it does sound like the brutal old huckster, doesn't it?  So glad he's captured one of this country's two major parties as well as playing master puppeteer to the British government for two or three decades.

Another interesting revelation comes in Sciolino's explication of the French manner of handling information about sexual dalliance and misconduct among their leaders. In brief, everything and anything, true or not, can be most delightfully repeated as rumor, while almost nothing, no matter how well verified, can be reported openly in the media as fact. Exhibit A this many year has been none other than DSK:
Whenever there is a gap in the conversation at a French dinner party, all a guest has to do is mention the name of Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the head of the International Monetary Fund and a former finance minister, who is said to harbor presidential ambitions. Someone may innocently ask whether the rumors about his serial womanizing are true. It always livens things up (p. 202).
Things got a little too lively for the French when Strauss-Kahn was accused abusing his position as head of the IMF after engaging in a sexual relationship with Piroska Nagy, an IMF economist.  The French, however, rallied round:
The French elite, right and left alike, rallied behind Strauss-Kahn and said his personal behavior was private. He hired a public relations firm and issued a statement in which he admitted infidelity. He called the affair “an incident in one’s private life,” accepted responsibility, and expressed “regret” (p. 218).
The story of DSK's alleged rape of a New York City hotel housekeeper came out in May 2011. La Seduction was published in June but apparently put to bed before the story broke, as there's no mention of it.

Even the French were apparently a little dubious about the possibility that a man of Strauss-Kahn's ravenous sexual habits might become their president (though French presidents, according to Sciolino, are expected to project sexual potency and "seduce" the country).   But they were certainly willing to entertain the entertaining notion.

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