Burlesquoni Rides Again!

by Henry on July 1, 2009

I’ve been a bit remiss in not covering the recent shenanigans in Italy:

Appearing on a billionaire’s luxury ship in the Bay of Naples on Monday, nine days before he hosts a Group of Eight summit, Silvio Berlusconi, Italy’s prime minister, rejected reports that his government risked falling apart over his personal life. “My government is probably the most safe and secure in the west,” he said. He specifically rejected “foreign” press reports questioning its stability in the wake of allegations by escorts that they had been paid by a businessman to attend parties at the prime minister’s residences and that one had sex with him on the night of the US elections in November.

My acquaintance with Italian society and politics is mostly second-hand these days, and Berlusconi certainly been extraordinarily good at turning bad publicity into good in the past, but I wouldn’t be surprised if this is the one that finally sinks him. Cavorting with eighteen year old starlet wannabes was probably a mild net positive for Berlusconi, allowing him to project an image of continued virility etc. Over-excited Czech prime ministers bedecked with young women at his private villa not so good – but more awkward than genuinely embarrassing. However the most recent allegation – that he had sex with a prostitute (who claims to have recorded the whole thing) seems to me to directly undermine the image that he wants to project of a debonair and charming, ladies’ man, making him sound like a bit of a loser. Certainly, Berlusconi himself seems worried.

“I have never paid a woman,” Berlusconi said in an interview with the Chi weekly owned by his Mondadori publishing empire. I’ve never understood what satisfaction there is other than that of conquering (a woman),” he told the magazine, according to excerpts sent to Reuters ahead of publication on Wednesday.

I’m predicting (cautiously, and with fingers crossed) that he will be gone within 3 months.

[As an aside, my favorite bit of the story is that the prostitute (who was allegedly paid by a businessman to attend the party), seems not to have asked Berlusconi himself for money “because she was more keen on favors to obtain building permits.”]

{ 42 comments }

1

StevenAttewell 07.01.09 at 10:27 pm

I’m a little cynical about whether Berlusconi will fall. Didn’t everyone say the last time he lost that he had so thoroughly disgraced himself, acted such il buffo on the world stage, that he shouldn’t be allowed in polite society, let alone the prime ministership?

I also don’t know how much showing up at an 18-year-old’s birthday party and throwing around jewelry (that he apparently buys in bulk for the purpose of handing out to women he wants to have sex with) conjures up virility; I got much more a borderline-statutory-rape vibe.

2

Tim Wilkinson 07.01.09 at 10:45 pm

As OP suggests, it looks like he’s hit on the nub of the matter as far as the distinctive aspect of this sex scandal goes. His strategy seems to be emphasising the ‘not paying money’ side – and on the macho alpha-male type premise (not shared by StevenAttewell nor me, but still), that seems about right. Separately, it embodies a generally sound strategy of narrowing the issue to manageable ground. (E.g. ‘circumstances surrounding’ the death of Dr Kelly.)

Being able to provide permits and giving jewellery fall short of the low-status ‘John’ extreme of the spectrum: they’re close to the fancy car, nice clothes and hotels range, an accepted part of the alpha-male phenomenon.

I suppose for the ideal maximum degree of macho kudos, the guy should be ugly, poor, charmless and callous and still ‘get any woman’ for no discernible reason at all. But providing material goods is certainly deemed OK – perhaps more so the more control over the female the alpha male gets or keeps. Deciding what form the reward should take is some kind of control. Perhaps a rule of thumb is that the more liquid the asset provided, the less the female is subjugated (‘conquered’), and the less status is gained/retained.

B might well be able to head off the threat to his image from the macho status angle, especially given his media dominance, which as the Times suggests seems in one way or another to extend to the state broadcaster.

The Catholic media losing patience, mentioned at the end of the Reuters report linked in the OP is a different matter. Not able to assess how serious a one from B’s perspective.

By the way, credit for a successful prediction will be discounted for caution [insert exclamation mark, ‘lol’, winking smiley, etc to taste].

3

Phil 07.01.09 at 10:59 pm

Tim – no, there were envelopes stuffed with cash as well (including one given to a woman who wanted it generally known that she hadn’t had sex with that man). Cash, jewellery, building permits, a safe seat on the local council – it’s all currency.

He didn’t exactly say I’ve never understood what satisfaction there is other than that of conquering (a woman). Here’s the actual quote:
Non ho mai capito che soddisfazione ci sia se non c’è il piacere della conquista

“I’ve never understood what satisfaction there would be (in sex) if the pleasure of conquest weren’t there.” (For grammatists: “se non” vs “se non c’è”.)

Also, the woman in question was an escort, not exactly a prostitute as such. (She’s now a councillor, I understand.)

I don’t think that’s going to be the last straw by any means – this is someone who’s already said he admires Mussolini and compared himself to Jesus, for goodness’ sake. In the annals of Italian outrage, I was more taken with the attempt by Franco Frattini (Northern League) to defend Berlusconi against the charge of hanging around with minors by pointing out that in Italy the age of consent is 14, and he certainly hadn’t been seeing anyone younger than that. (All together now: ewww.) But there is something afoot – there’s a kind of a sense that Berlusconi’s running out of road. Three months is probably a bit optimistic, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he didn’t see out the year. (God only knows who comes next, mind you.)

4

Balqis 07.01.09 at 11:15 pm

He is doing a good job for Italy, no reason for his government to fall
People understood who is really behind all these attacks [that will probably intensify in the days of the G8], which is why they still voted for him
Franco Frattini is from il popolo della liberta’ and never said anything about the age of consent [unless you found it written on one of Murdoch newspapers]

5

Tim Wilkinson 07.01.09 at 11:48 pm

Phil – oh no, I wasn’t saying that money wasn’t paid. Just that it is (a) the key issue and (b) a narrower – thus more manageable – one. Speculating wildly, I suppose allegations of receiving cash payments (if true) would tend to be particularly apt for being paid off. If you have some momentum on your side, a retraction, however implausible, can always be steamrollered through (‘now the initial confusion has subsided and all the facts are in’ being a common enough euphemism for ‘now we’ve had time to nobble the evidence to the satisfaction of the uncritical majority’). The ‘envelope’ that wasn’t alleged to be for sex would be a separate issue of course.

Re: ‘something afoot’ – that’s interesting. With isolated and discrete scandals, my sense is that crisis point for resignations etc tends to be over within a few days, but if this is part of something bigger, more fundamental or anyway different, that’s a bit, er, different.

To speculate, might the questions ‘why now’ or ‘why no coverup’ be relevant and likely to have an interesting answer? (The UK MPs’ expenses ‘scandal’, for example, struck and still strikes me as one for which the combination of both questions seems potentially interesting – but then the leak had strong senior Conservative/City/ex-special forces connections, as well as answers to the cui bono heuristic that prima facie included the City and possibly the Conservative leadership – and that was Intrigueless Albion.)

[edit] Balqis @4 – so – to avoid leading questions – who is behind the attacks? And do you suggest the allegations are fabricated?

6

dsquared 07.02.09 at 12:36 am

7

bert 07.02.09 at 1:06 am

d^2 -“Between 14 and 18 is absolutely legal.” That’s true. Although the age of consent rises to 16 if the older party has a position of influence over the younger. Like, say, being her Prime Minister.

Henry – your contempt for the Economist is well-established.
And Bill Emmott did have his faults.
But he took an early stand, and stuck by it.
Not nudie pics. A solid indictment, that stood up to a full-on assault by a highly-motivated hugely rich man with a G7 government at his beck and call.
Ad break over.

8

HP 07.02.09 at 1:21 am

All I know about Italian politics I learned by watching gialli. On the one hand, it’s a nation of extraordinary filmmakers, where even the cheapest exploitation film is full of insights into values and character. But it seems to be a nation where everyone is either a fascist or a communist. If Berlusconi falls, I will shed no tears, but is there no non-authoritarian strain in Italian politics? Where is the mushy middle? There is a part of me that would love to see a technocratic weakling in nominal control, failing to effect real change in any direction.

9

novakant 07.02.09 at 1:28 am

I think Henry is underestimating just how shallow much of the public is in Italy – there are of course excellent people in Italy, but a large chunk of the electorate is reliably falling for panem et circenis.

10

novakant 07.02.09 at 1:31 am

oops: circenses

11

Henry 07.02.09 at 2:15 am

HP – they tried that. His name was Romano Prodi. Decent bloke by all accounts, but trust me – it didn’t work.

Bert – as acknowledged in the linked post, I did admire the Economist’s stand on this. But speaking of Bill Emmott on Europe, I do wonder how he thinks his “Sarkozy as liberal reformer”:http://crookedtimber.org/2007/05/11/rupturerapture/ shtick has worked.

phil and novakant – I can’t at all claim to be in touch with Italian politics these days apart from occasionally skimming _Repubblica_, but the difference I see this time, for whatever it is worth, is that I have never seen Berlusconi look at all _embarrassed_before. Which suggests (and I don’t want to overplay this – it is only a suggestion) that his toxic publicity-pumping perpetual motion machine may be starting to fall apart. Funnily enough, the person in European public life who most reminds me of Berlusconi is Michael O’Leary.

12

HP 07.02.09 at 2:48 am

Henry,

Hah! I read up on Prodi on Wikipedia. It’s good to know (I guess) that black-gloved assassins can continue to fear the extremists in power, even as they confound the occasional foreign resident who witnesses a horrible crime, while the police in their incompetence bluster their way through a fruitless investigation.

13

bert 07.02.09 at 2:58 am

as acknowledged in the linked post

My apologies. And my bad. I’d missed that.

I’m sure Sarkozy will be a liberal reformer again, before long, for a while.
But he’ll likely have trouble commanding quite the same market share among the Anglo-Saxon commentariat.

14

Walt 07.02.09 at 3:16 am

I had the same reaction as you, Henry, that Prodi _was_ the technocratic weakling. What I don’t understand is why didn’t Prodi work out? From what little I heard about Italian politics, there was nothing that struck me as worse than Burlusconi.

15

Katherine 07.02.09 at 6:20 am

“I’ve never understood what satisfaction there is other than that of conquering (a woman)”

“I’ve never understood what satisfaction there would be (in sex) if the pleasure of conquest weren’t there.”

Either version of this statement is extremely disturbing, and I am perturbed that no one seems to have picked up on it. Women are “conquests”? That’s a worryingly predatory attitude, at best.

16

Tim Wilkinson 07.02.09 at 6:54 am

I am perturbed that no one seems to have picked up on…a worryingly predatory attitude
non-definitively documented, and non-stentorianly repudiated, @2 FWLIW

17

Phil 07.02.09 at 7:25 am

Katherine – welcome to Italy, circa 1959. (Berlusconi’s 72.)

I unreservedly apologise to Franco Frattini for assuming that the only home for crass, reactionary, know-nothing populists like him was in the League. Of course, there were plenty of them in Forza Italia. (One of the weird side-effects of Berlusconi’s rule is making the ex-Fascists look better and better – OK, so they believe in banning homosexuality and locking up dope smokers for life, but at least they talk in complete sentences & don’t sound like they’re making an after-dinner speech to the Young Farmers the whole time.)

Henry – for my money you’re seriously underestimating Prodi. I think he played a very bad hand remarkably well. Compare Veltroni, who got a bad hand, made it worse, played it badly, lost heavily, declared victory, then complained that everyone else was taking advantage of him and flounced out. (I preferred Moro to Berlinguer, too.)

18

glenn 07.02.09 at 7:54 am

After living in Italy for 8 years, I’ll probably never understand the italian pyche well enough
to fully explain how on earth Berlusconi (or anyone even remotely like him) could be celebrated, elected, admired, and/or remain in office before and after these allegations. The only partial explanation that I can feel confident in is that the opposition is just so lacking. Prodi, for example, was called the mortadella and for good reason. The Italian populace is not simply apathetic, and they are, but actively turn a blind out to his very significant flaws and faults. Of course him controlling essentially one half (or more) of the media helps, but that certainly doesn’t fully explain anything: everyone already knows he’s an unprincipled, devious, immoral cad – squalid. Frankly, I’d be surprised if this issue brings down the government, or even if it were to leave little more than a scratch on him. But it pains me to say that, as it’s as much as comdemnation of Italy and Italians, more so even, as it is of Il Cavaliere.
As for Katherine’s comment….well you’re right of course, but as Tim said, Italy is at best one generation removed from that mentality.

19

Chris Hanretty 07.02.09 at 10:10 am

I think the only thing that would bring Berlusconi down is if he receives official notice that he is under investigation by magistrates in Bari investigating Gianpaolo Tarantini, the man who allegedly supplied these women to Berlusconi. But the grounds for any such investigation are tenuous — as TW noted at [2], Berlusconi’s line (and the line of his lawyer Niccolò Ghedini) is that he’s never paid for these women, so it’s both okay in the court of public opinion and in the court of law. So a repeat of 1994 seems unlikely.

Moral outrage alone probably isn’t going to cut it — after all, there have been enough reasons for outrage before. Plus, it would need something special for Berlusconi’s partners in government to stick the knife in — he’s really the glue that holds the remnants of the Alleanza Nazionale together with the Lega Nord, and without him I don’t see an alternate premier managing to keep the coalition in one piece.

Phil — Prodi did about as well in holding the government together as political science theories of government duration would predict.

20

stostosto 07.02.09 at 10:50 am

The only explanation I see for the Italians’ lamentably persistant backing of Berlusconi is that they don’t identify with the state, and mostly resent it.

Berlusconi is what the inbred, pompous and self-serving political and bureaucratic class that inhabits the state machinery deserves, as they see it. He is a big “**** you” from the electorate to them. Plus, he has entertainment value like a circus director. “Burlesquoni” is very apt.

21

bert 07.02.09 at 10:52 am

Can we at least stop calling him “Il Cavaliere”?
Nobility, chivalry … all kinds of wrong connotations there.
“Il Caimano”?
Or is there something still better?

22

bert 07.02.09 at 10:55 am

“Burlesquoni” works pretty well on the page.

23

stostosto 07.02.09 at 10:55 am

How about “Il wacko”?

24

Tim Wilkinson 07.02.09 at 11:40 am

glenn @18 everyone already knows he’s an unprincipled, devious, immoral cad – squalid
or at least everyone already knows certain facts [which constitute his being a SUDIC].

I don’t really see Berlusconi, ethically speaking, as that different from his fellow members of the Axis of Moral Imbecility Bush and Blair, even in the latter case down to a culturally adapted – and imagery-wise much more nauseating for some reason – sexual boasting. Berlusconi just has a more blatantly corrupt culture to work with – and a large helping of braggadoccio and elan (can’t think of appropriate Italian terms offhand).
[edit – and what stostosto said @20]

bert @21 – shurely OK if done ironically, and/or with implied deconstruction (look Mum, no scare quotes!) of the concepts |Nobility|, |chivalry| etc. – droit de seignieur, anyone? (Or ‘cavalier attitude’?)

& @7: the age of consent rises to 16 if the older party has a position of influence over the younger. Like, say, being her Prime Minister. seriously though folks, that wouldn’t hold up as a legal point, unless the Italian constitution is extremely peculiar. In any case – to be fair, as even Berlusconi deserves* – I haven’t come across any suggestion of involvement with under 16s – which for a man in his 70s would arguably in many cases require borderline paedophilia properly so-called.

While engaged in the distasteful and thankless task of being fair to Signor B et al: in dd’s link @6, Frattini’s comment on age of consent was prompted by a direct question on the topic. So while it performs admirably its intended function of refuting Balqis’s sweeping #4, it doesn’t itself provide a clear example of the attempt…to defend Berlusconi against the charge of hanging around with minors referred to by Phil @3. Which is not to say there wasn’t such an attempt.

[*If you think you think he doesn’t, you are probably just being lazy about your understanding of fairness, I tentatively conjecture.]

25

Tim Wilkinson 07.02.09 at 11:45 am

On topic of circus skills, swagger (, sexism?) – for anyone who hasn’t seen it: Berlusconi and Merkel

26

Henri Vieuxtemps 07.02.09 at 11:46 am

There is, perhaps, too much emphasis on personality here and not enough on the performance.

All politics is local. A friend of mine from near Padova tells me: when Berlusconi was PM they started building a highway near his town, then Prodi came – they ran out of money and stopped, and now they are building again. Yeah, bread and circus, of course, always, what else? Or “the economy, stupid”, if you prefer.

27

JoB 07.02.09 at 12:10 pm

He’ll stay in power as long as he can plausibly deny he did not pay that woman :-(

Once they stop believing him on this, he will be perceived as weak & be forced to go (by the neo-fascist waiting behind the curtains, not by Prodi). Europeans are – whether people here like it or not – wary of the boring old hat from the paternalistic left.

28

Phil 07.02.09 at 12:12 pm

Tim – fair point. In my defence, it has widely been taken that way – & I’d say it was pretty inept of Frattini to answer that specific question, without referring to the broader question of whether it was appropriate or seemly for a married septuagenarian Prime Minister to hang around with girls too young to vote.

Chris – hey, it’s Chris Hanretty! Nice reviews for Modern Italy – it makes editing a lot easier when a reviewer can actually write. (I particularly liked the Landi.) Anyway, that calculation is deeply depressing, but somehow not surprising. But it doesn’t quite dislodge my image of Prodi as a long-game-playing tessitore in the Moro mould – can you imagine D’Alema holding Rutelli, Mastella, Bertinotti and di Pietro together for as long as two years, let alone Veltroni? I can’t find the quote now, but a Romanian(?) magazine asked Prodi the other month what he thought about the Unione in retrospect. He said he’d always thought it was a valuable initiative, and his judgment had been confirmed by the way that everything had fallen apart the moment it was dropped. I guess he’s off Veltroni’s Christmas card list.

29

Phil 07.02.09 at 12:15 pm

Fini’s not a neo-Fascist. At least, if he is he’s an extraordinarily good liar, who’s broken with a lot of old comrades and thrown away a substantial chunk of votes for no good reason. (Not even cynical reasons. There is no Right too extreme for Berlusconi – before the two merged, parts of Forza Italia were openly to the Right of the Alleanza Nazionale.)

30

Tim Wilkinson 07.02.09 at 1:09 pm

Phil @28 – well, not entirely inept, especially if he thought there might indeed be something to hide. As with the money question, it focusses the debate on a manageable (and minimal, inescapable) issue. As well as the misdirection effect, that means something with the form of a rebuttal can be provided for those who are predisposed to seek one. There might even be a boost from the frisson associated with the mere (it must be mere) possibility of such titillating impropriety – again for avoidance of doubt that’s not my own characterisation of the matter.

+ what novokant & Henri said re bread as one of the reasons for popular momentum (circus provided by Sr B personally – panis & penis?).

To generalise freely, the effect of political scandal (or the procession from allegation to revelation to scandal), unless so utterly wriggle-proof and unarguably inexcusable as to be almost mechanical in its progress, tends to be pretty variable and reflect what people want to believe/judge on the basis of other concerns (along with a host of other factors like desire of opponents to exploit it, ability to control the press etc.).

Blimey, Judge Dread eat your heart out. (To dispel any trace of humour: that’s a fairly obscure ska gag about long sentences.)

31

novakant 07.02.09 at 1:28 pm

Either version of this statement is extremely disturbing, and I am perturbed that no one seems to have picked up on it. Women are “conquests”? That’s a worryingly predatory attitude, at best.

I can imagine how Berlusconi’s usage of “conquering” is disturbing, but I don’t think this applies to the romantic notion of a man wooing a woman, while she is playing hard to get for a while.

32

JoB 07.02.09 at 1:29 pm

Phil, it is not uncommon for neo-fascists to be extraordinarily good at lying. Berlusconi is not to the right of anything, his only position is that he should be able to do whatever he wants (except paying for sex because the non-payment for sex is a defining feature of his personality).

33

Henry 07.02.09 at 1:48 pm

Phil – sorry – I should have been clearer and less flip. I actually agree with you about Prodi – he seems to me to have been the best leader that the left has had in the fifteen years or so that I have been paying attention to Italian politics. The point I was trying to make is that there isn’t much room for decent technocrats in the Italian system, where you have to spend your time rushing from crisis to crisis in your coalition, trying to make sure that you don’t get stabbed in the back by the eminences grises etc – but I didn’t really express it well.

34

Henry 07.02.09 at 1:50 pm

And Chris – since we never got to meet in May, who are you working with/what are you working on for your dissertation?

35

Phil 07.02.09 at 2:43 pm

JoB – if you want to believe that someone who describes Fascism as “absolute evil”, leading to a split to the Right in his own party and denunciations from the Right of Berlusconi’s, is just a Fascist who’s very very good at hiding it… well, knock yourself out. You’ll be in good company – just about the only people whose interests are served by acknowledging that Fini’s no longer a Fascist are genuine Fascists who attack him as a renegade. (If I was on the Left in Italy, I’d call him a Fascist myself – you can’t let political ammunition like that go to waste.)

Also, Berlusconi’s lack of politics is easy to overstate. You don’t surround yourself with people like Bossi and Frattini if you’re really apolitical – and you certainly don’t make alliances with unrepentant neo-Fascists. He quite genuinely hates ‘Communism’ – meaning roughly anyone who’s on the Left, has ever been on the Left or is willing to ally with anyone who’s on the Left – and I don’t think it’s just because all those people hate him.

36

JoB 07.02.09 at 3:46 pm

Phil, maybe you are right about Fini, I’m not following Italian politics too closely but I do know that Fini is very different from Berlusconi in the first one having a reactionary ideology and the other one just being power-hungry. The ideology is much more scary imho than the circus. And oe should be at least bevery very paranoid about what Fini says given he clearly would say anything to be runner-up of ‘the unbeatable one’.

Surely Berlusconi hates Communism (I hate communism). I don’t see why surrounding yourself with ideologists is show of ideology. He surrounded himself with Fini and he surrounded himself with Khadaffi. He even surrounded himself with the semblance of a good christian life! Only one thing he is very clear about: he does not pay for sex!

The reason why Berlusconi forces people to remain on life support against their own wish is not a sign of his deep felt convictions. It merely is his understanding that that is what is popular and more importantly even: it is what earns him the support of the organized political militants that are behind the fundamentalist catholics, the racists and the remnants of fascism.

The sad thing here are the Italians; and more specifically those pretending to be in opposition to Berlusconi from the left.

37

Balqis 07.02.09 at 3:53 pm

@Tim

it’s not the first time they attack Berlusconi before an election
This time we could have entered Europe with more than the 40% of votes, which means more power within the PPE
Someone definitely didn’t like it
He was speaking with his Turkish counterpart during that phone call, that’s why he was late

@dsquared
thanks for the link
Had missed this pearl cause usually our journalists do not ask such intelligent questions [then they say Italian press is bad]
He answered to a direct question about the age of consent

@Katrine

he meant to say that he would never pay to have a woman cause he prefers to conquer them
Now since I assume that you’re a woman like me, don’t tell me it’s offensive please

38

Phil 07.02.09 at 6:06 pm

One of the differences between Fini and Berlusconi is that the latter is willing to have open Fascist sympathisers in his party. Another is the issue of immigration, on which Fini has always been well to the Left of Berlusconi. Another is the small question of whether it’s appropriate to make jokes about concentration camp guards at the expense of a German MEP, for which Fini specifically criticised Berlusconi.

I do follow this stuff, and what I read tells me that Berlusconi is well to the Right of Fini, and has been for some time.

Surely Berlusconi hates Communism (I hate communism)

Oh please – do me the favour of reading the whole sentence. Communism for Berlusconi is a label to stick on any and all of his political opponents, including Dario Franceschini (ex-Christian Democrat) and Antonio Di Pietro (no known political affiliation before he formed his party, but generally pretty right-wing).

39

JoB 07.03.09 at 1:21 pm

Phil,

I really am sorry for deliberately misreading your sentence. I was too lazy to find the counterexamples of the past. Silvio will stick ‘communism’ to anything in his way – he knows the label is generally abhorred & old school enough in Italy to be vivid in most people’s minds. It’s his contribution to logic: almost everybody hates communism – if X is in my way & I won’t to get rid of it, I just say X is communist and be done with it. I do not think it speaks much for his opposition that they can’t undo the trick.

But I won’t defend Berlusconi. He’s there because everybody else is boring, some that mean well and some that do not mean well, and in the former some with good ideas & a lot with very bad ideas as well. But all boring and unapologetic for it, as if boring is the greater good, as if it’s bad to have something interesting to say.

What I do want to do is attack Fini because the guy is loathsome & does not mean well. The fact that he boringly avoids anything that can stick to him is not an asset, it’s what should sensitize us to the fallacy of the seemingly-less-extreme.

And I do stand by the opinion that Berlusconi does not have an ideology.

40

Phil 07.03.09 at 2:33 pm

I do not think it speaks much for his opposition that they can’t undo the trick.

Veltroni actually went along with it – he thought that once he’d dumped the ‘Communists’ Berlusconi would treat him as his ‘loyal opposition’. He knows better now.

As for Fini, he’s 57 years old, he’s the second or third most powerful politician in Italy, and he’s not likely to lose that position for another four years (at least). I think if he was going to drop the mask and come out as a neo-Fascist he would have done it by now.

41

Chris Hanretty 07.04.09 at 11:26 am

@Henry — I’m working with Alex Trechsel on the political independence of public broadcasters — hopefully due to defend the draft in November.

42

JoB 07.06.09 at 9:42 am

Phil, he doesn’t have to drop a mask, he’s going for common decency & I do not doubt that he is more decent than many. The scary bit is not the label, or the lack of mauvais mots; the scary bit is what he wants to get done and that there’s not a hair between what he wants and what the pope wants.

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