Political Hay

Implosions

A week of politicians self-destructing.

By 5.19.11

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It "has provoked horror and aroused disgust," said former French culture minister Jack Lang, referring not to the alleged behavior of Dominique Strauss-Kahn but to his treatment by New York police and prosecutors. According to media reports, a majority of the French see the matter in the same way, regarding Strauss-Kahn as the victim of an elaborate plot.

Bernard-Henri Lévy, who at times almost seems like a paid actor playing the role of a French intellectual on TV, told a nodding Eliot Spitzer on CNN that Strauss-Kahn has been treated very shabbily. Lévy appears to be one of Spitzer's favorite guests. Not so long ago Lévy was In the Arena to decry the rapes and violence in Libya.

Libyan soldiers, perhaps aging like Strauss-Kahn, have been receiving Viagra (via the Gaddafi regime) as fuel for their rapes, according to reports this week, a fresh outrage to trigger anguish in Lévy's heart. But, first, Strauss-Kahn has to be defended. Lévy is worried that the French left has lost its "champion" and France could be deprived of one its "most devoted and competent servants."

Strauss-Kahn had apparently grown accustomed to these defenses, assuming that his socialism would protect him from too much scrutiny. "He has said he loves women, but it seems more accurate to say he loves Socialist women," said a French lawyer quoted in Time. "I suppose he viewed that milieu as providing his supply of new women, and as one where women who caught his eye would either be compliant, or keep quiet about having to fight off his advances. Either way, there are a lot more women -- and men -- in Socialists [sic] circles who know about his activity than have ever said so."

Bill Clinton could count on some feminists to look the other way out of gratitude for his support of abortion rights. Strauss-Kahn had adopted a similar trust with socialists, though even his political rival Sarkozy reportedly warned him that this trust wouldn't hold up in America where they "don't joke about this sort of thing."

This has not been a good week for womanizing pols of varying degrees. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who once inspired giddy calls from admirers for a change in the Constitution so that he could run for president, seems to have fewer apologists these days than Strauss-Kahn. Now that he is out of office, his admirers in the Republican Party don't feel the need to defend him anymore. But at the time of the Recall, they insisted that the accusations against him of misconduct represented much ado about nothing. After all, his wife Maria Shriver had vouched for his good character. Moreover, he was, they said, bringing to the party a less stuffy approach to social issues that would revive the GOP in the Golden State. He launched his campaign on the couch of Jay Leno, to which he will now no doubt return to explain his housekeeper scandal.

Meanwhile, Newt Gingrich, who thought the toughest questions this week would touch upon his three marriages and womanizing during the Clinton impeachment, faced far tougher ones on his erratic ideology. Yesterday's conservative backbencher finds himself today's reviled establishment Republican. He has shown himself to be out of touch with the Tea Party on mandates and the Ryan plan. He is lucky that he didn't run into Joe the Plumber, though his encounter with the angry Iowan was damaging enough. Gingrich has managed to unite the right and left against him. The dominant media hates him for his "divisive" conservatism and the Tea Party distrusts him for his Washington ways. That he was doused with glitter by a gay-rights activist in Minnesota and confronted by a Tea Partier in Iowa this week served as metaphor for this haplessness.

The Republican presidential field is so weak that a more disciplined Gingrich could have risen in it. But he couldn't help himself on Meet the Press, itching to use a show-off phrase like "right-wing social engineering" to wow his liberal audience and establish his independence. As much as he attacks the "Washington establishment," he longs at the same time for its respect and seeks it by taking faux-independent stands and assuming the unconvincing role of above-the-fray statesman (his comment about the danger of "radical" change in a "free society" is typical of this self-conception).

He got ahead of himself ludicrously, acting like he was already a general-election nominee, who, as he put it, couldn't afford to speak like a Fox News analyst or shoot-from-the-hip professor, as if that would somehow convince his liberal detractors to see him in a new light. He failed to see that his "divisive" conservatism is the only thing he had going for him, which he has now squandered through his "evolving" campaign.

 

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About the Author
George Neumayr, a contributing editor to The American Spectator, is co-author, with Phyllis Schlafly, of the new book, No Higher Power: Obama's War on Religious Freedom.