The French elites are different from you and me. They're French. From the Steyn:
Whatever the head of the IMF did or didn't do, the reaction of the French elites is most instructive. "We and the Americans do not belong to the same civilization," sniffed Jean Daniel, editor of Le Nouvel Observateur, insisting that the police should have known that Strauss-Kahn was "not like other men" and wondering why "this chambermaid was regarded as worthy and beyond any suspicion." Bernard-Henri Lévy, the open-shirted, hairy-chested Gallic intellectual who talked Sarkozy into talking Obama into launching the Libyan war, is furious at the lèse-majesté of this impertinent serving girl and the jackanapes of America's "absurd" justice system, not to mention this ghastly "American judge who, by delivering him to the crowd of photo hounds, pretended to take him for a subject of justice like any other."
As you'll recall - at least those of you not victimized by a public school education - a couple of centuries back the French had a revolution. Let me differ with Zhou Enlai and say that enough time has passed for us to make a judgment. The French Revolution was a failure. This was rather apparent at the time. A bid toward liberal democracy quickly degenerated into the modern world's first totalitarian state, then limped along for the better part of a decade until order was restored by Napoleon. Edmund Burke, that great prophet, foretold the disaster almost from its onset. It is rather remarkable that so few have grasped its consequence with the hindsight of two centuries.
The popular image of the revolution is of desperately poor people slaughtering the rich and powerful. The image is a product of Charles Dickens vivid narrative skills in A Tale of Two Cities. Thus most in the English speaking world recall the revolution as delayed justice becoming bloodied vengeance. Up with the people and down with the aristos. Like with most revolutions it was actually run by an intellectualized - and politically inexperienced - middle class.
Another great myth of the revolution is that it established a meritocracy in France. Certainly many professions were opened up to ordinary people. The real power in France, after the fall of Napoleon, has basically been kept within the same social class. Whereas financial success can buy any American into the front row of life, in France going to the right school - such as Sciences Po and the ENA - is vital to having any real influence in the Fifth Republic. While access to these schools is suppose to be meritocratic, their selection pool is so small, and their alumni so influential, this hardly matters.
The French elite is not fluid and is not especially accountable. It's one of the reasons the French take to the streets as often as they do. Power is centralized overwhelmingly in Paris and in the hands of bureaucrats and politicians. In a society where the state occupied a small slice of the economy this would be of little importance. The French state, however, looms over its society and economy in a manner hardly imaginable by North Americans until the Obama Era.
The gap between the ENA graduates (Enarques as they are known) and ordinary people is vast. They stand at the end point of a vast government administered selection process. The French state school systems is far tougher than its anglophone counterparts, especially in the maths and sciences. This is one of the reasons that City firms seek out French graduates. Those who don't make their way through the tough academic meat grinder are left with few prospects. While the education is excellent, it is the credential that is vital. No credentials means no luck.
As a point of comparison, take Mark Steyn. By his own admission he barely graduated high school. His first job after leaving was as a DJ at a local radio station, which he obtained by basically talking his way in. Such an improvisational personality would have little chance in the hierarchical society of France. While Anglophone schooling is on average much worse than that of France, our societies are far more dynamic. The purpose of schooling in the Anglo-Saxon world being - in theory - preparation for the real world. In France it is pre-screening for high level positions in the bureaucracy, political apparatus and in the country's highly regulated business sector.
For the French life is much like school. A flood of not always relevant information, regimented hours and lengthy examinations. You spend two decades completing test questionnaires so that, if all goes well, you can spend a life time filling out government questionnaires. The clever and lucky may get to administer those questionnaires. It is a self-contained universe where one is ranked and categorized. After surviving such an ordeal a sense of entitlement is only natural.
Dominique Strauss-Kahn was one of those clever boys who won all the prizes (except admission into ENA oddly enough, having to settle for a Ph D from Paris X Nanterre). He was better than everyone else. His test results proved it. Why should he be bound by such hum-drum things as decency, civility and mutual respect. Ordinary rules apply to ordinary men. The French Revolution replaced one aristocracy with another. The ancien regime, however, gave us les liaisons dangereuses. Their modern descendants will bequeath DSK in American handcuffs. You may decide for yourselves which example of decadence is more engaging.