"DSK": a household reference for the man in la belle France.
Three rather surprising and general reactions from the French in Paris since I am on the ground and working here right at the moment of this scandal (reactions of co-workers & friends, taxi drivers, the French papers, tabloids, etc - all sorts of discourse about the subject):
1. The obvious one: what happened was some sort of organized effort to frame DSK and to bring him down just before his moment of glory in politics. This is everywhere. This reaction is understandable, if you take into account timing and if we were talking about another man. Unfortunately, that DSK is in a position to be defending his behavior in this circumstance is not even slightly surprising given his history with women and sexual aggression. When DSK became the head of the IMF, what was written in French papers? A cautionary tract, insisting that DSK's approach with women would not be tolerated in an Anglo-American setting. He was literally called on this before it happened. This says nothing of the incident in 2002 with the French journalist (and his wife's goddaughter, no less), Tristane Banon, who claims to have been sexually assaulted by DSK and then subsequently told by her own mother to hold her tongue and not publicly speak out. The man has a history of a perverse way of thinking about women, which in no world means that he is guilty, but rather, that the immediate French assumption that he must not be is odd. Tristane Banon's mother's reaction also symbolizes something perverse in French culture. Perhaps DSK found himself in a context where his behavior would not be tolerated and that is the difference between his ability to act with impunity in the past and the position in which he finds himself today.
2. The second reaction (almost everyone mentioned this): American puritanism will taint the judicial process (so even if he is found guilty, he won't be - the verdict will merely be evidence of the American obsession with puritanism in public sexual affairs). The fact that the French choose to turn a blind eye to consensual sexual behavior by their politicians really has nothing to do with whether this person committed a crime or not. Analogously, the fact that Americans care whether or not their elected leaders engage in sexual trysts on the side is totally irrelevant as to whether DSK will be found guilty of a crime in this country. That the conversation turns to American puritanism when discussing a crime is a strange reflection on the way sexual harassment is viewed in France. In fact, I was baffled when a colleague chimed in on the DSK discussion with, "And they haven't even shown us a picture of the woman yet!" As if by viewing a photograph it could be determined whether or not she would be a worthy target for such a man as DSK.
3. The most absurd: that DSK devised this plan himself and acted as a means of wriggling out of his current political track. Tactical genius. The poor man - driven to such behavior.
The theme of all three of these reactions? DSK is not to blame. Whether this is true or not, it is fascinating that the French could be so unequivocal in their response and their defense of such a reputable figure.