He's the Prime Minister of one of the richest and most powerful countries in the world. His nation’s $2 trillion economy relies on its reputation as an open market, free of corruption and sleaze. He is overweeningly proud of his country and its place in the world. Yet he has just been interviewed for 17 hours by investigators - not as a suspect, mind; as a witness. It is a lasting shame to his countrymen.
And we should know, because we have just been through the same thing.
Dominique de Villepin has been interviewed by judges investigating the Clearstream Affair. This sordid tale involves a secret Luxembourg bank account stuffed full of deposits, some of which were apparently made by UMP Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy. Mr. de Villepin admits that in 2004, as Foreign Minister, he asked a secret service agent to investigate the list of accounts. It now looks suspiciously like the mysterious slush-fund was deliberately set up to smear Mr. Sarkozy, whose ambition to succeed Jacques Chirac as President is no secret.
Mr. de Villepin's political career is in tatters. Widely recognised as President Chirac's anointed heir, it now seems impossible that he can challenge Mr. Sarkozy for the presidential nomination of the (Gaullist) Union for a Popular Majority.
One of the ongoing battles of my life is convincing people that not all politicians are irredeemably corrupt. The behaviour of two of the world's leading statesmen undermines that effort.