Berlusconi Curses as Italy Prepares to Vote

Right up to the end, Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's outrageous personality has dominated news of Italy's general election to be held Sunday and Monday.

If it wasn't the right-wing media magnate's personal poll of phone sex girls (seven out of nine said they favored his candidacy, he claimed), it was his description of people who might vote against him with a Italian insult so vulgar the international online media had difficulty translating it. ("Idiots," said the Toronto Star. "Bloody stupid," said the Independent Online in South Africa. "[Unprintable]" said the EITB news agency of Spain and "[equally offensive]" said The Age in Australia.)

Meanwhile, Berlusconi opponent Roman Prodi, an economics professor and moderate leftist, has played up his lack of charisma with the message, "I'm dull but at least I'm safe."

The personality contrast seems to have worked in Prodi's favor, with the incumbent trailing by at least 3 points in final polls taken this week.

The contest is widely watched in Europe because of Berlusconi's conservative politics and his domination of Italy's broadcast media. Martin Jacques of The Guardian of London called Berlusconi "the most dangerous man in Europe" and said "he poses a profound threat to democracy in Italy."

Berlusconi has gone so far as to say Prodi's government will be controlled by communists.

Prodi has promised to withdraw Italy's 2,600 troops from Iraq "as soon as possible," while Berlusconi, a supporter of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, wants to keep them there through December.

Prodi has promised to institute an inheritance tax but has not specified at the size of the estates affected, leading some to fear he will raise their taxes. In the candidates' second debate, Berlusconi used his closing statement to promise to abolish a tax on first homes, a move that some think could capitalize on Prodi's vulnerability or boomerang as a gimmick.

The Italian press was divided about who came out ahead in the debate, according to a BBC survey. Il Giornale, a daily owned by Berlusconi's brother, concluded that the prime minister had prevailed while the leftist press praised Prodi' performance.

As for Berlusconi's choice of the word "coglione" (which literally means "testicles"), there is no dispute. The country's bishops condemned it. The left-wing La Repubblica newspaper said it "reveals the lowest level of democratic and civil respect." Even Il Giornale agreed that "a statesman should not use the word 'coglione' to describe anyone, friend or foe."

By Jefferson Morley |  April 6, 2006; 8:28 AM ET  | Category:  Europe
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"The most dangerous man in Europe"

funny, that... when Berlusconi, and the poodler, Blair are swept from office this year, who will George "the Most Dangerous man in the World" Bush look to for support in Europe?

Posted by: dave | April 6, 2006 10:11 AM

Nicholas Sarkozy? Yeah, right!

Posted by: LB | April 6, 2006 11:12 AM

3 points would show the incumbent closing, as Berlusconi trailed by much more in recent months.

Most dangerous man in Europe? Why? Because he is the first Italian to hold a post-WW2 government together for more than a few years. He brings stability and is called a danger to democracy.

Posted by: J. M. Deutch | April 6, 2006 11:53 AM

April 6, 2006 -- Department of Homeland Perversion. Doyle wasn't the only child predator. Department of Homeland Security deputy Press Secretary Brian Doyle, arrested in Maryland for soliciting sex from a Florida undercover detective posing as a 14-year old girl, had company within the department. On October 25, 2005, Tampa-based Homeland Security Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement official Frank Figueroa was arrested at Orlando's Mall at Millenia for exposing himself and masturbating in front of a 16-year old girl in the food court. Figueroa used his federal law enforcement badge in an attempt to avoid arrest. Amazingly, Figueroa had been in charge of the Homeland Security Department's Operation Predator, designed to curb child sexual exploitation and child pornography.

The collection of GOP mug shots are beginning to resemble a large high school year book

It is clear that as reported yesterday by WMR, the Bush administration and the GOP are chock full of pedophiles, sexual harassers, male prostitutes and their clients, and others who display anything but so-called "family values." The leadership of the Religious Right are aware of, condone, and in some cases, participate in these sordid activities.

Posted by: che | April 6, 2006 11:57 AM

Oh look, CHE's posted the exact same "comment" to this thread as he has in several today at The Fix and over at Early Warning.

Please, will someone look into a way to stop (ban?) his irrelevant posts from these blogs? He adds absolutely nothing to the discussion, and in fact, disrupts many free-flowing threads by interjecting his non-sense.

Posted by: corbett | April 6, 2006 02:48 PM

Unlike in France, Prodi's left-wing alliance are rather moderate in their approach to government. Berlusconi, on the other hand, comes off more like a populist demagogue comparable to Bush (U.S.A.) or Thaksin (Thailand). Besides already holding all the aces, these people will stoop to any level to be elected and - not surprisingly - there is a lot more going on behind the scenes than meets the eye once they are in power (nepotism, corruption, etc.).

Posted by: Kermie | April 6, 2006 02:52 PM

How can bursky keep the public from voting him out,every time i read about the guy he is being investigated.and he sure stood up for his people when one of his secret service were shot.he whimperd abit then gave bush a return bush never brings up his corrupt dealings.he just says he is a great friend in the war on terror.

Posted by: robert | April 6, 2006 03:39 PM

I am skeptical that Berlusconi could possibly be more harmful to Italy than perpetual political turmoil and disruption. Italy is so fragmented and decentralized that what is merely initiative could easily look like the second coming of Benito Mussolini. And if Berlusconi cannot succeed in leading then it will only be the actual second coming of Benito Mussolini that will succeed.

Posted by: J. M. Deutch | April 6, 2006 05:31 PM

I note some comments regarding Berlusconi being a force for Italy's 'stability'. Really? So you want stability? At what cost? Police states are notorious for being stable. Mussolini brought stability. Hitler, too. And Stalin. Mao. The list is long.
Dictators are big on stability. They not only prefer it, they demand it.
Democracy is usually loud and disorganizied and rambunctious and messy and constantly in a state of flux. Stability is a nice thing, but not at the expense of individual liberty. Our specie may eventually invent a perfect form of government. Until then, I'll take good old democracy, instability and all.

Posted by: cody mccall | April 6, 2006 07:25 PM

only if you live here in italy you can figure out what is the real economic situation after 5 years of berkusconi. the average retribution for an employee is 1000 euro, but many young people with university degree work for 600 to 300 euro/month, with 2 months-ended contracts. the prices for any kind of machinery is double, or triple, in comparision to the same brand in US, or UK. buying something has an enormous impact on families, if you make the comparision. this is giving us any possibility of self employment, and deconstruct the very little enterprise, that is getting out of our business and tradition.
Silvio Berlusconi, in my opinion, has deeply damaged italian style, colture and consciousness, our affordability in europe, and most of all he gained the old fascism back from the grave. this is all ridiculous, like that white bandana or his personal pagan mausoleum. but during this electoral campaign you have had a little sample of his style and openminded view.

sincerly yours,

Posted by: martlooze | April 6, 2006 07:49 PM

errata corrige:

this is NOT giving us any possibility of self employment, and deconstruct the very little enterprise, that is getting out of our business and tradition.

excuse me

Posted by: Martlooze | April 6, 2006 07:52 PM

" but many young people with university degree work for 600 to 300 euro/month, "

Ouch, I'm fresh out of Collage in the US and I make 2 to 3 times that.

Posted by: Duck | April 6, 2006 08:07 PM

"Most dangerous man in Europe? Why?"

Why? Because, as prime minister of Italy he has placed himself in a grotesque and obvious conflict of interest by passing laws specifically designed to shelter him from prosecution.

Why? Because, he has vast wealth of unexplained provenance, has personally provided shelter to a known gangster, and in other ways too exhibits every sign of being a powerful mob boss -- a mafioso.

Why? Because he has a stranglehold over Italian television, and abuses that power grotesquely to skew all news coverage in his favor.

Why? Because, like Aznar in Spain, he defied the will of his people to join Bush's illegal war in Iraq, prolonging the orgy of killing in this doomed act of U.S. unilateralism and violation of international law.

Why? Because his failed right-populist policies have driven Italy's economy into the ground; it now has the most stagnant economy of western Europe.

Why? Because Berlusconi, like his patron Bush, is a known liar.

Agreed: Berlusconi is the most dangerous man in Europe, just as Bush today is unquestionably the most dangerous man on earth.

Posted by: Jane | April 7, 2006 12:00 AM

BREAKING NEWS!!!!!!!!!!!!!

April 6, 2006 LATE EDITION After weeks of informed speculation that Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald was preparing to issue at least one indictment against White House deputy chief of staff Karl Rove in the CIA leak matter, well-placed sources have revealed that Rove continues to "cooperate" with the prosecutor in an effort to shield Bush from the ever-widening scandal. This has temporarily delayed new indictments, according to informed sources.

Fitzgerald's decision to use Libby's statement as part of the prosecution's evidence is a sign that the prosecutor has other statements from high-placed White House individuals like Rove that implicate both Cheney and Libby in the leak of a CIA covert agent's name to the media. However, Fitzgerald also has testimony from Libby that places blame on Bush, in addition to information obtained from over 200 e-mails first reported by the White House to have been mistakenly deleted. Some of the e-mails also implicate Bush and Rove.

Potomac scandal fever: Renewed CIA leak scandal blossoms along with the cherry trees

Sources say that I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby's testimony before a grand jury that President Bush, acting through Vice President Dick Cheney, authorized the leak of a 2003 classified National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) to the New York Times is part of bitter internecine finger pointing between Bush and Karl Rove on one hand and Cheney, Libby, and Cheney's current staff on the other. By directly implicating Bush, Cheney can argue that he was merely carrying out the president's orders and passed instructions to Libby to use his media contacts like Judith Miller of the Times and Matt Cooper of Time to pass along selected portions of the NIE, which stated that aluminum tubes acquired by Iraq were intended for uranium enrichment. However, a one-page executive summary included with the NIE was withheld from the leaked segments because it contained a statement that the State and Energy Departments believed the tubes were for conventional weapons, which turned out to be the case. That information would have undercut the Bush administration's claims that Iraq had reconstituted its nuclear program.

Fitzgerald's court filing states: "According to defendant [Libby], at the time of his conversations with Miller and Cooper, he understood that only three people -- the President, the Vice President, and defendant [Libby] -- knew that the key judgments of the NIE had been declassified. Defendant [Libby] testified in the grand jury that he understood that even in the days following his conversation with Ms. Miller, other key officials -- including Cabinet-level officials -- were not made aware of the earlier declassification even as those officials were pressed to carry out a declassification of the NIE, the report about Wilson's trip [to Niger] and another classified document dated January 24, 2003."

The bottom line is that there is now a severe rift between Bush and Cheney. Rove continues to protect Bush while Libby, who at first provided cover for Cheney, is now willing to let the chips fall where they may. As one source put it, Rove is more than willing to "throw Cheney under the bus to protect the president." There is also the possibility that Libby is cooperating with the prosecutor in return for a reduction in his criminal charges.

Washington insiders who were involved in Watergate and maintain contacts with the current administration report that the situation within the Executive Mansion has never been so tense since Watergate. Even the Clinton impeachment pales in comparison to the current situation they claim.

Posted by: che | April 7, 2006 05:17 AM

Despite Corbett's April 6th, condemnation, it appears "Che" may be on to something, refering to the April 7, posting.

Posted by: Ramses | April 9, 2006 08:59 AM

Hey you yanks, Get ready after Italy's elections for yet another nation to pull out of your bogus "coalition" in Iraq. You are ever more isolated on this mad adventure of yours.
You broke it. You fix it.
I say not a penny from any other nation to rebuild Iraq until the bully who thought he knew best -- the U.S.A. -- apologizes for violating international law, hands top leaders (Bush, Rumsfeld, Cheney) over for war-crimes prosecutions in the Hague and pays multi-billion-dollar reparations to Iraq and the international community.
You broke it. You fix it.
You went in on your own. And you are now there -- more than ever -- on your own.

Posted by: Simon | April 10, 2006 02:00 AM

"Why? Because, he has vast wealth of unexplained provenance . . . Why? Because he has a stranglehold over Italian television"

You can say what you want about Berlusconi and his policies and his potential conflicts of interest, but let's not get carried away here. Unexplained provenance? Ah, do you think maybe some of it came from that media stranglehold you describe? The man owns a lot of companies, it's not mystery how he got rich. I think you've watched too many Sopranos episodes, Jane. Your assertion that he skews all media coverage in his favor is also without merit – as the above blurb demonstrates. If he was skewing all media coverage in his own favor, do you think Italians would be reading about his telephone sex operator poll or his vulgarities?

As to Cody's insipid post about dictators, Berlusconi hasn't brought stability to Italy by undermining democracy or installing a police state. In fact, if you read today's newspapers, Cody, you'll learn that he's actually engaged in a democratic election right now! Furthermore, while you may like your democracy messy, most Italians were a little tired of just how messy their democracy had been for the last half century, when they averaged a new government every 11 months.

As to Morley's characterization that "Berlusconi has gone so far as to say Prodi's government will be controlled by communists." Uh, controlled, influenced, whatever - he's not wrong. Communists comprise a significant portion of the coalition party that Prodi formed. As hard as it might be for most of us in the US to believe, there is still a thriving communist contingent in Italy - and you thought Berlusconi didn't do enough for economic growth! As they’ve demonstrated time and again, no one gets an economy up and running again better than Communists, right Che? (I bet a lot of Cubans would take that (dubious) 300-600 euro/month.)

Posted by: Spicy Meatball | April 11, 2006 08:14 AM

"If he was skewing all media coverage in his own favor, do you think Italians would be reading about his telephone sex operator poll or his vulgarities?"

Actually, yes. Because there remain a couple of titles -- La Repubblica newspaper and L'Espresso newsmagazine -- that he still doesn't own. And these are the only outlets in Italy that report critically on Berlusconi. Everywhere else, it's non-stop pro-Berlusconi propaganda. In terms of its media landscape, Italy has become a genuinely Third World nation. Let's hope the left brings in media anti-trust laws that will bust up this dangerous media empire.

Posted by: Jane | April 15, 2006 03:43 PM

This is cool, you have to try it. I guessed 40680, and this game guessed it! See it here -

Posted by: Allison Trump | May 23, 2006 01:17 AM

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