A distinguished columnist, editor and foreign correspondent, Wes Pruden has been a leading voice of conservative thought for more than three decades.
It's tough out there for a roue
This has been a rough summer for roues, if you can call them that. We've not only defined deviancy down, but roues are not what they used to be.
Anthony Weiner, who entertained us through the merry month of May with what he thought were lady-killing moves, was actually nothing more than a teenager playing a version of the pre-pubescent game of "I'll show you mine if you'll show me yours."
DSK, as Dominique Strauss-Kahn wants to be known (he thinks it makes him sound dangerously thrilling to the ladies as only a porky little fat man can thrill), is actually more runt than roue. He illustrates the proposition that Don Juan didn't make his reputation with truck-stop waitresses. (No offense intended to truck stops or waitresses.)
DSK has more in common with the late Strom Thurmond, the infamous Capitol pincher still exercising nimble fingers at 95, than with Errol Flynn, the onetime Tasmanian devil who was the real thing, plundering Hollywood boudoirs with the abandon that made la-la land deliciously infamous in the days before bratty children took over the silver screen. Flynn told all, or at least most of the interesting bits, in a randy and rowdy autobiography he modestly called "My Wicked, Wicked Ways."
There was once honor among roues, of the sort common among thieves. Rape is a high crime, reviled by all; seduction at worst a misdemeanor (though a startled husband on the cusp of discovery would regard it as more than that). A roue, though nobody's role model, abhors force and regards seduction as an art form. Nobody, except his loyal wife, regards DSK as an artist. The French, who usually don't care what you do as long as you pronounce it correctly, are not offended by DSK's behavior, but by his performance. A roue would regard resorting to intimidation or force as cheating in the game of love. For all his supposed Gallic sophistication, DSK is a bumpkin, a rube, a wrinkled rooster in silk stockings.
The French intellectuals, such as they may be, often profess to be amused by the hickhood of Americans, but their hysteria in the wake of the new disclosures in l'affaire DSK can entertain all the American hicks and clods of the French imagination. Bernard Henri-Levy, the small-g god of the French left, describes DSK as "a modern-day Dreyfus," a man maligned by the American media frothing to the point of pornography. In this intellectual view, the only honor in l'affaire is DSK's own. "This vision of Dominique Strauss-Kahn humiliated in chains, dragged lower than the gutter -- this degradation of a man whose silent dignity couldn't be touched, was not just cruel," he writes in deep purple ink in the Daily Beast, a Web site. "It was pornographic."
Frothing a bit himself, Mr. Levy cries that DSK has been dehumanized into a figure of hate across the globe, and likens his treatment to the policies of Robespierre, the tyrant-hero of the French revolution who died face up under the guillotine he had employed to dispatch his rivals. Violence in the name of justice naturally reminds Mr. Levy of the United States.
"America the pragmatic, that rebels against ideologies, this country of habeas corpus that de Tocqueville claimed possessed the most democratic system of justice in the world, has pushed this French Robespierrism . . . to the extremes of its craziness. In this case, Dominique Strauss-Kahn was no longer Dominique Strauss-Kahn [but] a symbol of arrogant France. He was the emblem of the world of the privileged, odiously sure of their own impunity."
Socialists like Mr. Levy suddenly have a vision of DSK, rehabilitated by tainted reality, as the president of France after all. DSK's reputation as a pig (no offense intended to the noble razorback) remains unredeemed by the revelations that cast considerable blight on the moral reputation of the chambermaid who accuses him of rape. Some of Mr. Levy's Socialist colleagues understand that. "Let's all stay calm," Gerard Le Gall, a public-relations guru, says. "The version of the story has changed before and after and could change again." A minister in the cabinet of French President Nicolas Sarkozy takes a similar tack. "He has not given a very positive image of France in recent days, between his appetites for luxury and other things."
Indeed he has not, and that's a grief for the French to deal with. Marianne, the feminine symbol of France, is left to her own private mourning for damage done to the reputation of the roue, the symbol of the French lover.
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