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  • Maverick Leaders: Silvio Berlusconi June 5, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite, Contemporary , trackback

    Silvio Berlusconi may not have been the most brilliant post-war European politician: even his closest supporters, when pushed, would probably admit that. But it is difficult to think of another modern politician anywhere  – with the possible exception of Idi Amin and Colonel Ghadaffi (the second a friend of SB) – who had such a complete disregard for the etiquette of international affairs. Whether that is a good thing or a bad thing will depend, of course, on what you think of those ‘affairs’. (Beach has mixed feelings). For those without money in Italian banks, it did meant though that Berlusconi was good for colour in the monochrome world of spats and diplomats. And Beach, who is wondering about opening a tag on maverick leaders wanted to celebrate  today SB’s rule-breaking  as the man himself recedes from our lives.

    A half dozen random examples (some only in Italian, sorry).

    When meeting Angela Merkel in Venice SB hid behind a statue and shouted ‘cuckoo’ as the German president went by. (For less happy Berlusconi protocol breaking with AM follow this second link).

    When provoked by the (admittedly irritating) Martin Schulz in the European Parliament SB suggested that Schulz become a concentration camp guard in a forthcoming film being made in Italy: watch MS’s delayed reaction as the simultaneous translation comes through…

    When asked what he thought about Obama’s election in Russia Berlusconi answered ‘ he’s young, he’s beautiful and he’s tanned’: even the Russians looked embarrassed…

    At a press conference in Italy he suddenly announced ‘I have to go pee-pee’ and pretended to be a dog relieving itself against a column of the hall in which the press conference was being held.

    Or what about the time when asked about re-branding his party Forza Italia (Go Italy), he suggested renaming it, in an interview no less, as Forza Gnocca (Go Pussy)?

    One of the most curious legacies of SB’s time in power are the chains of glamorous women now on the right’s lists in the regional, national and European parliaments. SB had a self proclaimed weakness for beauty – seen in this bizarre self-celebratory song – and promoted many protégés, where the press – the international press, the Italian press did not at first dare – insinuated there were affairs between master and student. (Watch, for example, the following extraordinary video at about 9.40 minutes for an allegation that took Beach’s breath away.) One sad side to this is that the media has often not taken these belle donne as seriously as they deserve. Mara Carfagna, the Minister of Equal Opportunities was the single most impressive individual in the Presidente’s entourage, man or woman. Naturally though her actual talents were rarely written about, being entirely overshadowed by rumours.

    SB shuffled off the political coil six long months ago. But he has recently been staging a comeback. His first pronouncements on the Euro crisis were spectacularly, yet gloriously silly. First, he suggested that Germany should leave the Euro, a little bit like blaming Switzerland for the Cold War. Then he suggested – ‘though some people may say I’m crazy’ – that Italy should just print more Euros, something that would probably lead to the third  invasion from over the Alps in the last century.

    Put like this SB can seem a monumental idiot. But, of course, he is anything but. He came, remember, from a lower middle class background and yet made himself one of the richest Italians in the space of twenty years. It is difficult even for SB’s enemies not to admire his extraordinary energy and his smiles and his actions show a man who is often capable of great kindness.

    And not only did SB make a lot of money he then, in the 1980s, barged his way into the world of Italian soccer. And, in doing so, he took AC Milan to success after success with  a hands on management style that worked. For example, he chose a coach for Milan from a team two divisions below the Italian premier league and that coach brought AC trophies. Few of us are up to making those kinds of bets and walking away from the table better off for them.

    It is difficult then to blame Italians in 1994 (after two years of humiliation from their imbecile political class) for voting for Berlusconi. Italians thought that he would bring the same genius he had demonstrated in soccer and business to government; and he did keep the ‘masked’ Partito Communista out of office. But, though Berlusconi had got ahead he had done so using an entirely different skill set than that necessary for reforming Italy. He had got ahead, in fact, using the old, murkier Italian system and did what he could to preserve the same system when Italy was revolting in the early 1990s. In a sense the saviour became part of the problem.

    Any other leaders worth writing home about: drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com



    9 June 2012: Three readers though particularly Southern Man have written in arguing that this post is too sympathetic towards SB and listing SB’s many faults (and there are many). Beach would only make this point that while SB does have faults and while he changed Italy most of these faults were already there in the Italian system before SB found himself on the scene. Admittedly in some areas – particularly the war against the (very) politicised judiciary – Berlusconi took it further than anyone else. Here Beach must thanks Down the Rabbit Hole for another amazing video: here Berlusconi makes the worst Freudian slip of all time. While complaining about how much he has had to pay lawyers he accidentally says ‘judges’. Full credit to the guy, he shrugs off a mistake that in most countries would mean instantaneous democratic execution. B