French "philosopher" Bernard Henri-Levy, the non-politician perhaps most responsible for getting NATO into war with Libya, has long been one of the West's most scarequote-worthy intellectuals. There was the quoting of a literary hoax to attack Immanuel Kant, the dubious reportage from the Russia-Georgia mini-war, the now-more-than-ever defense of Roman Polanski's "misdemeanor." And let us not forget the eating-at-home-is-"repugnant" boast, the Daniel Pearl appropriation that led Pearl's widow Marianne to describe BHL as "a man whose intelligence is destroyed by his own ego," and a self-appointment as successor to Tocqueville so brazenly impotent that even Garrison Keillor rose above his usual torpor to snarl that "There's no reason for it to exist in English, except as evidence that travel need not be broadening and one should be wary of books with Tocqueville in the title."
So there was never a question of whether this narcissist millionaire shirt-unbuttoner would manfully rise to the defense of his poor, underprivileged pal Dominique Strauss-Kahn, but just how thoroughly he would soil himself, his country, and his alleged professions in the course of the apologetics. Well, thanks to the editing genius of Tina Brown, we now have an answer.
Let's go straight to the victim-blaming:
I do not know—but, on the other hand, it would be nice to know, and without delay—how a chambermaid could have walked in alone, contrary to the habitual practice of most of New York's grand hotels of sending a "cleaning brigade" of two people, into the room of one of the most closely watched figures on the planet. [...]
I hold it against all those who complacently accept the account of this other young woman, this one French, who pretends to have been the victim of the same kind of attempted rape, who has shut up for eight years but, sensing the golden opportunity, whips out her old dossier and comes to flog it on television.
How about some special pleading for the accused, because of his elite status? Check:
I hold it against the American judge who, by delivering him to the crowd of photo hounds, pretended to take him for a subject of justice like any other. [...]
France [...] has counted him among her most devoted and competent servants for so many years.
And Europe, not to say the world, [...] is indebted to him for contributing, for the past four years at the head of the IMF, to avoiding the worst.
Stuff it, égalité! Can we have some spectacular misreadings of the U.S. criminal justice system, please?
I am troubled by a system of justice modestly termed "accusatory," meaning that anyone can come along and accuse another fellow of any crime—and it will be up to the accused to prove that the accusation is false and without basis in fact.
And since we don't want to reprint the whole quavering bag of apologia ("Charming, seductive, yes, certainly; a friend to women and, first of all, to his own woman, naturally," etc.), let's close with perhaps my favorite line:
What I do know is that nothing in the world can justify a man being thus thrown to the dogs.
I'm guessing what BHL really means here is that no worldly rape can justify Strauss-Kahn's treatment. Since if the accusations are true, a 62-year-old man known by every French person I've asked to have the sexual manners of a primate lunged nakedly at hired help half his age, grabbed her breast, knocked her to the floor, and chased her around his expensive hotel suite attempting with some success to thrust his penis into her body and discharge DNA evidence.
I don't know if he's guilty, and it would be imprudent not to consider the conspiracy theories in a case involving someone who until this week was the single biggest political threat to the sitting president of France, but the only decent way you can arrive at "nothing in the world can justify" Strauss-Kahn's treatment is if you oppose all perp walks equally. Short of that, it's just special pleading for a powerful dick. And another reminder that BHL is 10 times the national embarrassment to France than Jerry Lewis or even Johnny Hallyday ever was.