As the fallout from Dominique Strauss-Kahn and The Chambermaid's Tale continues,
the guy from the Dos Equis commercials French public intellectual Bernard-Henri Lévy is taking quite a beating inside the United States. Lévy -- or BHL for those in the know -- is a longtime friend of Strauss-Kahn -- or DSK for, well, you get the idea. After DSK's arrest, BHL penned the following in the Daily Beast:
I do not know what actually happened Saturday, the day before yesterday, in the room of the now famous Hotel Sofitel in New York.
I do not know—no one knows, because there have been no leaks regarding the declarations of the man in question—if Dominique Strauss-Kahn was guilty of the acts he is accused of committing there, or if, at the time, as was stated, he was having lunch with his daughter [we actually know that, given the timeline, DSK's lunch with his daughter is not an alibi, as even his defenders acknowlege --DWD].
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....
And what I know even more is that the Strauss-Kahn I know, who has been my friend for 20 years and who will remain my friend, bears no resemblance to this monster, this caveman, this insatiable and malevolent beast now being described nearly everywhere. Charming, seductive, yes, certainly; a friend to women and, first of all, to his own woman, naturally, but this brutal and violent individual, this wild animal, this primate, obviously no, it’s absurd.
This morning, 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....
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.
I do not know the extent to which BHL fact-checked his column -- for example, the French woman he accuses of being opportunistic now actually went public in 2007 only to have herself censored on French television.
I do not know the extent to which BHL is aware that DSK's other sexual indiscretions appear to have a greater element of coercion than had been previously realized.
I do not know why BHL's understanding of "cleaning brigades" is somewhat at odds with the reality of how American hotels actually function.
So, this raises an exceptionally uncomfortable question for some foreign policy commentators. BHL might look like a horse's ass right now, but six or seven weeks ago, he was playing a very different role. According to
BHL himself multiple press reports, Bernard-Henri Lévy was the interlocutor between Libya's rebels and the rest of the world. He therefore played a crucial role in getting French President Nicolas Sarkozy -- and therefore, the West more generally -- to intervene in Libya. This caused some consternation at the time. It would obviously set off even louder alarm bells now.
Given this role, Ben Smith tweets a very valid question: "So if the order of DSK-gate and Libya are reversed... do we go into Libya?"
This touches on some very interesting questions about temporality, causation, correlation and counterfactuals. What are the necessary or sufficient conditions for a policy outcome to occur? Do events have to happen in a particular sequence to reach a particular outcome? Was BHL either a necessary or sufficient condiition for the UN/NATO action in Libya?
My answer would be that Bernard-Henri Lévy's intellectual reputation was neither necessary nor sufficient for Operation Odyssey Dawn to take place. Consider the following:
1) French president Nicolas Sarkozy has been more circumspect than BHL in commenting on DSK, reflecting the general muteness of the French political class on the topic. It seems unlikely that BHL's ardent advocacy would have caused Sarkozy to listen to him any less on Libya.
2) One of the key aspects of the Libya decision was the compressed time frame in which it had to be made. Qaddafi's forces seemed on the verge of retaking the country within a week. Debating whether BHL was an honest broker or not seemed pretty peripheral to the real-time changes on the ground in Libya. It's worth remembering that the Arab League and the UN Security Council acted very quickly by International Organization Standard Time, and I certainly don't think BHL had much of a role to play. On the scale of things, one would have expected the "flickers" of Al Qaeda presence among the Libyan rebels to have acted as a bigger brake, and yet that fact did not derail the policy either.
3) Without in any way diminishing the allegatioons and official charges against DSK, there is a difference between the (mostly) venal sins of BHL and the French political class, and the (mostly) mortal sins of Qaddafi and his family If the Libya decision was happening right now, my hunch is that it would drown out much of the Franco-American contretemps over
American puritanism French misogyny one person's failings.
What do you think?
A revolt among big donors on Wall Street is hurting fundraising for the Democrats' two congressional campaign committees, with contributions from the world's financial capital down 65 percent from two years ago.
The drop in support comes from many of the same bankers, hedge fund executives and financial services chief executives who are most upset about the financial regulatory reform bill that House Democrats passed last week with almost no Republican support. The Senate expects to take up the measure this month.
This fundraising free fall from the New York area has left Democrats with diminished resources to defend their House and Senate majorities in November's midterm elections. Although the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee have seen just a 16 percent drop in overall donations compared with this stage of the 2008 campaign, party leaders are concerned about the loss of big-dollar donors.
And now Politico:
With the financial reform bill likely to hit President Barack Obama’s desk in coming weeks, Wall Street's top political players are warning Democrats to brace themselves for the next phase of the fight: the fundraising blowback.
Democrats who backed the bill are finding big banks far less eager to host fundraisers and provide campaign cash heading into the tightly contested midterm elections this fall, insiders say.
Some banks, in fact, have discussed not attending or hosting fundraisers at all for the next few months. Goldman Sachs is already staying away from all fundraisers, according to two sources. The company would not comment.
“I think at least in the short term there is going to be a great deal of frustration with people who were beating the hell out of us — then turning around and asking for money,” said a senior executive of a Wall Street bank.
Based on these stories,
when if the Democrats get hammered come November, expect a lot of pixels and ink spilled on the awesome power of the financial sector to get what it wants in Washington. And don't believe a word of it.
This is the lobbying equivalent of a good but struggling baseball club calling a team meeting right before they play the worst ballclub in the league. That is to say, sports managers often save their rousing speeches before a game they're pretty likely to win, so they can claim that their motivation was what led their team to victory.
As Charlie Cook notes, the Democrats are heading into a Category 5 political disaster come November. This has nothing to do with FinReg, and everything to do with a struggling economy, an ecological disaster in the Gulf, fired-up conservatives, and disaffected liberals. Wall Street antipathy is really the least of their problems.
I'm laying this marker down now -- unless we see some shocking upsets among the New York delegation (the real target of Wall Street's ire), analysts who proclaim the awesome political power of financial sector will be doing so with sloppy facts and sloppy argumentation.
In recent years, I've seen some very... let's say exaggerated arguments about the power of political lobbies in Washington. They do possess political influence, but much of that influence rests on the perception that they can make or break electoral fortunes. In Wall Street's case, however, they're pushing on a door that was already wide open.
Which is not surprising. Powerful interests tend to apportion their money to candidates they think will win. Indeed, to use a term of art, Wall Street's political preferences appear to be -- dare I say it -- pro-cyclical.
The New York Times' Robert Worth and Nazila Fathli take a bold step for inference in their story on Iran's demonstrations:
Unlike the other protesters reported killed on Sunday, Ali Moussavi appears to have been assassinated in a political gesture aimed at his uncle, according to Mohsen Makhmalbaf, an opposition figure based in Paris with close ties to the Moussavi family.
Mr. Moussavi was first run over by a sport utility vehicle outside his home, Mr. Makhmalbaf wrote on his Web site. Five men then emerged from the car, and one of them shot him. Government officials took the body late Sunday and warned the family not to hold a funeral, Mr. Makhmalbaf wrote.
Whoa there, big fella. Talk about jumping to conclusions! Sure, this looks suspicious, but I can think of several other plausible reasons for why this could have happened:
See, these are all plausible alternative storylines, and should be investigated thoroughly before calling this a "political assassination."
Daniel W. Drezner is professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.