NEW YORK - Time doesn’t heal for Dominique Strauss-Kahn. Things only get worse.
On Monday, exactly a year will have passed since his arrest on charges of trying to rape a maid in a luxury New York hotel room.
Those charges were dropped and in September the French politician and freshly resigned head of the International Monetary Fund returned to Paris a free man.
Supporters thought this consummate mover and shaker could still recover, perhaps become champion of France’s Socialist Party and defeat the vulnerable President Nicolas Sarkozy in upcoming elections.
A Socialist did beat Sarkozy last week – but it wasn’t Strauss-Kahn.
Instead, Strauss-Kahn will watch Francois Hollande sworn in as president on Tuesday, and will only be able to think: “That could have been me.”
The fabulous life of power and privilege Strauss-Kahn enjoyed up to May 14 last year has been firmly yanked away.
He has not set foot again in the United States, where he once enjoyed a luxury lifestyle as head of the IMF. And while the criminal charges have been dropped, the maid’s dogged lawyers are pursuing a civil lawsuit for unspecified damages.
Strauss-Kahn, whose high-powered legal team deftly undermined the maid’s criminal case last year, was helpless earlier this month when a judge rejected his claim to diplomatic immunity, ordering the civil trial to go ahead.
For the first time in many years, Strauss-Kahn is experiencing life as an ordinary man whose time in the limelight is only tinged with bad memories.
In his native France, life is even more fraught.
At first it was assumed he would find refuge on home soil. Supporters painted Strauss-Kahn as the real victim, an honorable statesman abused by an out-of-control US judicial system.
But then a new sex scandal erupted and this time it was in France.
If US sex crime charges didn’t quite kill his career, French pimping charges apparently did.
The silver-haired VIP, the world figure and one-time president-in-waiting was accused of leading a double life in which prostitutes – “luggage,” he called them in a text message – were ferried to orgies.
Strauss-Kahn denied involvement in a prostitution ring. He said he thought the young women at those orgies were there voluntarily.
Strauss-Kahn then played the ultimate victim card. In the midst of the fevered French election he gave an interview suggesting that Sarkozy had orchestrated his political demise.
But that appeared to have had little effect other than to inflict collateral damage on his wife Anne Sinclair, an heiress and TV news personality.
She’d loyally stood by her disgraced husband throughout the scandals – and used her vast wealth to help foot the multi-million-dollar tab in New York for lawyers, security, investigators and luxury residences.
But her star is also falling. In the first round of the French election she was a consultant to BFM-TV. In the second she was not.
“The serenity was gone,” BFM-TV’s boss Guillaume Dubois said delicately. “It was better for everyone for her not to be present.”
Almost invisible a year later is the Guinean maid whose accusation touched off the drama.
Nafissatou Diallo gave a string of interviews last year to push her case against Strauss-Kahn. Now her lawyers are keeping her under wraps.
They are playing a long game that will keep Strauss-Kahn from getting comfortable quickly: the trial may not even start for about 15 months, according to the presiding judge.