Stealing the thunder

For months President Nicolas Sarkozy has held out on officially declaring his intention to seek re-election in the now fast approaching 2012 presidential elections -with no apparent good reason. Perhaps his silence was meant to build up suspense, to wait for the moment when the announcement would create the largest splash in the media, or most destabilize his opponents in the Socialist Party camp. In the end, the announcement came and went, and the French hardly noticed.

It happened at his ruling UMP party's "Summer School" conference, which I traveled to the city of Marseille to cover. Sarkozy did not attend the event, so it was party chief François Copé who was charged with belting the battle cry. He did, and got the expected response from the few thousand UMP supporters at the conference center. That was about it.

The Marseille conference and the campaign launch were supposed to be the day's big headlines. It was what all the French were supposed to be talking about on Monday when they went back to school and back to work. Instead they are all talking about Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who prosecutors in New York said was un-prosecutable, and who has come home.

The French are now debating the perplexities of the American justice system so different from their own, they are accepting they'll never know if Strauss-Kahn tried to rape a hotel maid, they are wondering if he will dare return to politics.

And what do they think about Nicolas Sarkozy's daring stab at another mandate?

Ze boring.

For all the Fuss, getting official statements to Strauss-Kahn's homecoming from politicians was like trying to squeeze milk out of a dry cow pie. To their credit, the UMP has mostly kept its nose out of the mess from the beginning, but Socialists are potentially facing a real liability with campaigning underway.

One thing I’ve learned from the Strauss-Kahn affair is that it’s unwise to predict what direction it will take next. So nothing more on that.

But for all the headaches Strauss-Kahn could give his fellow Socialists in the future, he did bring one gift for them from New York. He stole Sarkozy's thunder at a key moment.

In Marseille, the UMP's Copé blasted the media for all the attention it had already given Strauss-Kahn's return. Fishing for reactions from rank-and-file members, I found one retired school teacher who said she was sure Strauss-Kahn planned his return to France to get as much attention as possible. “It's indecent,” she told me, before scolding journalists like myself for biting at the bait.

But a local UMP councilman, Gilles Phocas from the city of Meze, admitted the media frenzy was deserved. “After all, before the arrest, he was the frontrunner in the elections,” he reminded with a very fitting shoulder shrug.

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Désolé d'écrire en Français. Pour être tout à fait complet sur ce que j'ai répondu à Mr Bamat lors de l'interview, j'ai aussi considéré que la justice américaine s'était complètement décrédibilisée dans cette affaire... passant d'un exces à un autre... Concernant le sensationnalisme dont on fait preuve les médias, il est auniveau de celui qui a été développé tout au long de l'affaire pour celui qui était considéré comme le favori des sondages.. Enfin, à la question qui m'a été posé de son possible retour en politique, je me suis contenté de répondre que cela le regardait à lui, car c'est un choix personnel, à condition qu'il en accepte evntuellement les conséquences car il est sur qu'il y aurait alors une très grosse pression sur lui et peut etre une humiliation. Moi, je ne sais pas ce qu'il s'est passé dans cette chambre d'hotel donc je ne peux m'exprimer sur des faits d'une telle gravité... Par contre, ce que je sais, c'est que le comportement de cet homme, ainsi que ses pratiques ne correspondent pas à mes valeurs non seulement, mais ne correspondent pas à des valeurs qui correspondent pour moi à celle d'un homme qui aurait été censé représenter mon pays s'il avait été élu.
I'm curious to know if French citizens would have welcomed Dominique Straus-Kahn if based upon reported evidence that they felt he had raped a woman who was a French citizen? How much does the fact that the accuasation was made in America make them open to accepting him irregardless of whether he "did" or "did not rape" the woman? Also, what impact does it have on the case that the woman is Black? That she is African? I would appreciate responses from those who are French citizens? Thank you.
Very nice to write in English, however I would strongly suggest to proofread the article before publication. Cheers

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