Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Two happy men

Last Friday, 58-year-old Dominique Strauss-Kahn, a former French finance minister, was elected to the position of managing director of the IMF [International Monetary Fund], whose headquarters are located in Washington. On Monday, he was received at the Elysées Palace in Paris for a 45-minute discussion with Nicolas Sarkozy, who had been instrumental in promoting the candidacy of the socialist Strauss-Kahn for this prestigious international job.

Normally, French people in big jobs prefer to avoid revealing their income, because it's considered bad taste in France to talk publicly about one's wealth. As a professor at the political science institute in Paris once put it: "In France, money only becomes respectable after it's a few generations old." Be that as it may, everybody now knows that Dominique Strauss-Kahn's tax-free salary will be 495 000 US dollars. Besides, he'll get driven around gratis in a Lincoln. I hope he'll also receive free luncheon vouchers for the staff canteen.

In France, not surprisingly, people were interested above all in finding out whether Strauss-Kahn's acceptance of this job rules him out as a presidential candidate in 2012. Reading between the lines, I have the impression that this would not appear to be the case. First, Strauss-Kahn stated explicitly that he "remains socialist", which means that he hasn't abandoned the domain of French politics. Then, in diplomatic language concerning the elections of 2012, he pointed out that "the final words in such affairs always belong to the French people". That's a roundabout way of saying that, if the French people cry out for him loudly enough, he'll no doubt make himself available.

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