He was, it had seemed, shortly before the crowning achievement of his career. Dominique Strauss-Kahn, head of the International Monetary Fund, has set his sights on the French presidency. And opinion polls indicated that the Socialist heavyweight had excellent chances to unseat French President Nicolas Sarkozy in 2012.
Instead, he was arrested. On Saturday evening, he was unceremoniously pulled out of an Air France flight at New York's John F. Kennedy Airport shortly before takeoff. He has now been charged with attempted rape after a maid at a luxury hotel accused him of making unwanted sexual advances on her in his hotel room.
The arrest has not only thrown the presidential elections in France wide open. It has also put Strauss-Kahn's position at the IMF in question at a crucial time for the global economy. The incident kept Strauss-Kahn from attending a meeting scheduled with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Sunday in Berlin where they had planned to discuss further measures to bail out Greece.
As more details emerged on Monday, German papers questioned whether there was any possibility for Strauss-Kahn to recover his career after such a scandal, regardless of whether he is proven guilty or not.
The center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung writes:
"It would be easier to grant Dominique Strauss-Kahn the presumption of innocence as more than just a legal matter of course were it not for several points in his biography that indicate, shall we say, hyperactive sexuality."
"At the IMF, Strauss-Kahn already overcame a scandal with a woman, though he came out of it with a black eye. Because accusations weren't legally relevant, one could see with some tolerance that American puritanism was at work. But however the current situation unfolds, Strauss-Kahn's reputation at the IMF will be so ruined that he will be under enormous pressure. The IMF will see a change in leadership."
"Whether Strauss-Kahn will now have political career possibilities in France, is another question … Even in France, where the erotic escapades of top politicians are handled with discretion and tolerance, patience runs thin when the use of force is suspected."
The left-wing Berliner Zeitung writes:
"If the accusation of attempted rape (turns out to be grounded), Dominique Strauss-Kahn is finished. He will be unacceptable as both head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and as a presidential candidate. Even if the charges of sexual assault turn out to be less drastic than the initial police protocols indicate, a man who can't control himself, who respects a woman so little, is unsuitable to be the representative of a global organization or of France."
"That is bitter for the man in question, who helped bring the IMF new importance through the financial crisis. But it also bitter for the rest of the world. The Strauss-Kahn scandal shakes the IMF at a time when he is needed more than ever as a debt crisis manager."
The left-leaning daily Die Tageszeitung argues:
"The right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty also applies to IMF director Dominique Strauss-Kahn. But hardly anyone in France doubts that the career of 'DSK' is finished politically. Not just his friends are upset, the polling institutes are also mourning their favorite. Already months ago the pollsters had so clearly named the former economy minister and IMF leader as the top favorite for the French presidential election, that in France he had already been declared Nicolas Sarkozy's successor."
"Strauss-Kahn's image as a skirt chaser and philanderer was widely known. He had to have known that such allegations can't be erased -- whether they are true or not. The consequences are primarily his responsibility. Meanwhile there is no shortage of schadenfreude, and not just from his right-wing opponents."
"A sex scandal for the Socialists' favorite is fodder for Marine Le Pen of the right-wing populist party the Front National (FN) … His elimination from the final election opens the way for a power duel with Sarkozy."
Financial daily Handelsblatt writes:
"The spectacular arrest of Dominique Strauss-Kahn comes at an obviously bad time for the IMF and the euro-zone. The unending euro debt crisis is creating an increasing amount of unrest. Important IMF backers, in particular China and the US, have doubts over whether Greece, with its billions in IMF credit, will fulfil its economic and political obligations."
"In light of this delicate situation, the IMF leader has dropped out completely. This is also a problem because the French socialist Strauss-Kahn had often advocated for understanding of Greece's socialist government."
"The sudden vacancy at the top could accelerate a development that has been emerging for several years -- the ambitious economic powers, mainly China, are gaining more influence in the IMF.... The EU was already at pains to place Strauss-Kahn at the helm, against resistance from the big emerging markets.... The euro-zone could soon find out that the Chinese, Indians and Brazilians don't necessarily have much understanding for the expensive social systems and public enterprises in Greece and Portugal."
The center-left Süddeutsche Zeitung writes:
"For France's Socialists, this could be a healthy shock. For many months the country's largest opposition party has been hypnotized by their great hope Dominique Strauss-Kahn.... Now they realize that, mired as he is in a sex scandal, Strauss-Kahn can no longer step up. The Socialists must find another candidate to challenge Nicolas Sarkozy."
"Right now the French are particularly furious with their politicians. They suspect that the leading class has been living it up while imposing tough budget cuts on the working class. Strauss-Kahn's behavior in the New York luxury suite will only increase their displeasure. In this atmosphere, a moderate, sober presidential candidate would be welcomed. Even Sarkozy has realized this. Long criticized as the 'bling-bling' president, he's now working hard on a new, more purposeful image. The upcoming campaign will be a bit duller, but rich in substance."