There's an old English ditty, "a young lady of Kent," that ends with these lines:
"she knew what it meant,
but she went."
Eight years after she went, Strauss-Kahn's French accuser says she didn't know what it meant. If what I have read about the charge of attempted rape now being brought against Strauss-Kahn in France is correct, eight years ago a young French woman agreed to meet Strauss-Kahn alone in an apartment that was not his address. She claims that, despite her protests, Strauss-Kahn persisted in sexually aggressive behavior. She construes, or perhaps misconstrues, his behavior as attempted rape.
If the woman's account is true, there is an innocent interpretation. By agreeing to the meeting, she sent a signal that she did not intend to send and which Strauss-Kahn interpreted, or misinterpreted, to mean that she was sexually available.
If this is the story, a French court would realize that, however frightening it was for the young woman, it was a misunderstanding and not an attempted rape. Strauss-Kahn would be guilty of boorish behavior, but this is not yet a crime.
French skepticism would explain why the charge lay dormant for eight years and came to life on the heels of the New York case, which has now fallen apart. The certainty with which the New York police, prosecutor, and American media initially treated Strauss-Kahn's guilt created credibility for the French woman's accusation. Certainly, the prospect of Strauss-Kahn's conviction on the New York charges would give a French lawyer more confidence in the French woman's story.
I offer this not as an excuse for Strauss-Kahn, who is much too horny for his own good, but as an innocent explanation of an event that also has non-innocent explanations.
For example, according to the French press, Strauss-Kahn predicted that his favorable standing in the election polls would result in Sarkozy, or the interests behind him, paying a woman one million euros in order to bring sex charges against him in order to knock him out of the presidential race.
We also know from press reports that the New York hotel maid had a French attorney who was assigned the task of bolstering her case for damages by finding some French victims of Strauss-Kahn. If the French case continues after the collapse of the New York one, Strauss-Kahn's attorneys will certainly investigate any contact between the hotel maid's attorneys and the French woman's attorneys.
We also know from the French press that Sarkozy's political operatives knew of Strauss-Kahn's arrest before the New York Police announced it. This introduces the element of conspiracy.
How will it end?
If the strength of the French case depends on the New York case, the French attorney will advise his client to drop the proceedings.
If the French case is perceived as one of extortion and not justice, the case will fall apart.
If the French public becomes convinced that conspiracy is involved, it will be electoral curtains for Sarkozy, and Strauss-Kahn will be the next president of France.
Paul Craig Roberts [email him] was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury during President Reagan's first term. He was Associate Editor of the Wall Street Journal. He has held numerous academic appointments, including the William E. Simon Chair, Center for Strategic and International Studies, Georgetown University, and Senior Research Fellow, Hoover Institution, Stanford University. He was awarded the Legion of Honor by French President Francois Mitterrand. He is the author of Supply-Side Revolution : An Insider's Account of Policymaking in Washington; Alienation and the Soviet Economy and Meltdown: Inside the Soviet Economy, and is the co-author with Lawrence M. Stratton of The Tyranny of Good Intentions : How Prosecutors and Bureaucrats Are Trampling the Constitution in the Name of Justice. Click here for Peter Brimelow's Forbes Magazine interview with Roberts about the epidemic of prosecutorial misconduct.