In some ways, Strauss-Kahn may have been lazier than Sinclair. He appreciates her wealth—“My wife has sheltered me from need for the rest of my days,” he has said—and campaigning hard isn’t that much fun for someone who enjoys pampering so much. Strauss-Kahn’s position at the IMF was largely that of a figurehead, an ambassador whose main job was to negotiate with high-level personages and who had a big staff to take care of the day-to-day politics. The Socialist Party was concerned about this as he became the leading candidate for the presidency in 2012, and there were strategy discussions about how hard he would work, how much he could be counted upon to campaign. But there was a thought that Sinclair, the more ambitious one, would continue to push him forward.
After all, Sinclair was desperate to leave D.C. and wanted the presidency for him more than anything. In Strauss-Kahn, Sinclair saw the ultimate candidate. Her commitment to Judaism had deepened, and when her father passed away, she even decided that she would recite the Mourner’s Kaddish, or the Prayer for the Dead, for him. “My father did not have a son, so I took on the responsibility,” she has said. “Every day for a year, I visited the synagogue to recite the Kaddish, accompanied by my mother.” According to friends, she always wanted to prove that, more than 75 years after Léon Blum became France’s first Jewish prime minister, the French would again be willing to elect a Jew. Such a thing was worth the sacrifice, because it would make for une formidable revanche sur l’histoire—a revenge on history.
With something larger to be gained, not just the enjoyment of a mere love affair, Sinclair has always seen her role, in part, as that of Strauss-Kahn’s protector. She held his hand through the tribulations he went through over a decade ago, when he was accused of corruption in two arcane political scandals. One had to do with a fee from a student insurance fund; the other involved his alleged possession of a videotape that included damning evidence of campaign fraud by a right-wing political party, which he was thought to possess because he’d allegedly been bribed by a tax attorney looking to reduce Karl Lagerfeld’s taxes. Sinclair believed he had done no wrong and that this was mere skulduggery by the rightists. Ultimately, her faith proved to be well placed—Strauss-Kahn beat the accusations both times, though he resigned his post in the wake of the first scandal.
Sheltering Strauss-Kahn has also meant overlooking some of the issues in his relationships with other women, like his short affair with a Hungarian economist at the IMF, for which Strauss-Kahn was investigated in 2008 and issued an apology, though he stopped short of confessing that he had used his power in the seduction (the economist had said she felt coerced by him, “damned if I did, damned if I didn’t”). At the time, Sinclair blew off the affair as a one-night adventure and said that if Strauss-Kahn was a womanizer, “it’s important to seduce, for a politician. As long as he is still attracted to me, and I to him, it is sufficient.” According to the Taubmann biography, as far as Tristane Banon is concerned, most of Strauss-Kahn’s set think she is merely seeking revenge after Ramzi Khiroun, part of the Strauss-Kahn PR machine, called Banon to ask her to read him what she had written about Strauss-Kahn in a book she was working on about men’s political mistakes. When she refused, Khiroun applied pressure to her publisher, who agreed to remove Strauss-Kahn’s image from the front of the book and the bulk of the passage in question. When Banon found out, she called Khiroun, furious at his “auto-da-fé,” as she called it. “I will get my revenge on Dominique Strauss-Kahn,” she allegedly said.
But there were other women, of course: the member of the French National Assembly who has said that Strauss-Kahn made a “very heavy, very insistent” attempt to bed her and that she “arranged to never find myself alone with him in a closed space”; the French actress who said he’d come on to her like a “randy monkey”; another actress who said on TV, “Who hasn’t been cornered by Dominique Strauss-Kahn?”; the European journalist who said that Strauss-Kahn had said he would give her an interview if she “spent the weekend with him.” Sinclair knew about some of these stories, but if she believed them, she did not show it. She broke off a friendship with a close girlfriend who tried to dissuade her from staying in a marriage in which there was so much infidelity (a little infidelity, we are all supposed to know, is often acceptable in France). At another lunch with a friend, when the topic came up, she threw down her napkin and left the room, according to Rambert and Revel. The feeling for Sinclair, as for Hillary Clinton, must be one of siege, with an ever-shrinking circle of girlfriends providing advice and never betraying her confidence, so that her real feelings, to the public, remain impenetrable behind the mask. In a way, these public marriages—the Clintons, the Spitzers—are like heavily defended fortresses. However uncomfortable things may get on the inside, the enemies are out there.