Tuesday, July 05, 2011

French elites have it wrong this time


They were right about Iraq in 2003, but their current complaints are off target.

Joe Nocera admirably sums up what went right in the fizzling Strauss-Kahn rape case.

For the life of me, though, I can’t see what [District Attorney Cyrus R.] Vance did wrong. Quite the contrary. The woman alleged rape, for crying out loud, which was backed up by physical (and other) evidence. She had no criminal record. Her employer vouched for her. The quick decision to indict made a lot of sense, both for legal and practical reasons. Then, as the victim’s credibility crumbled, Vance didn’t try to pretend that he still had a slam dunk, something far too many prosecutors do. He acknowledged the problems.

[French intellectual blowhard Bernard-Henri] Lévy, himself a member of the French elite, seems particularly incensed that Vance wouldn’t automatically give Strauss-Kahn a pass, given his extraordinary social status. Especially since his accuser had no status at all.

But that is exactly why Vance should be applauded: a woman with no power made a credible accusation against a man with enormous power. He acted without fear or favor. To have done otherwise would have been to violate everything we believe in this country about no one being above the law.

The amazing thing about this case is that Vance apparently did what we expect a responsible prosecutor to do -- and that he will probably be punished for scrupulously following the law he is sworn to uphold. His job is elective. Doing his job embarrassed the kind of people that pay for campaigns and vote in elections. He's probably in trouble.

Was he supposed to ignore a credible accusation of rape? Was he supposed to help the woman make up stuff in order to save his own ass? Or to conceal information from the investigation?

Vance deserves credit, not blame. It wasn't his job to help a French political party win a presidential election. (This is certainly part of the French distress over the case, in addition to their racial and economic elitism.) It was Vance's job to follow up on a plausible suspicion that a crime had been committed. He did.

Maybe he's been watching too many TV dramatic heroes who end up doing the right thing after much soul searching, instead of caving to "reality." Maybe we all should be taking those values more to heart.

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