THE SPINE NOVEMBER 24, 2010
Personally, I believe that Silvio Berlusconi is the best prime minister that Italy has had in years. And certainly the most interesting. Now, being the Italian p.m. is not exactly an honor, given the number of them who've served in the office, especially since the collapse of the Mussolini dictatorship during the Second World War. But Cavour was the first premier of the United Kingdom of Italy, and he was certainly a distinguished intellectual. On the other hand, he died in 1861, two and a half months into office. Then there is "everybody else," many of whom served several times, usually for a short period.
Aldo Moro, who was prime minister five times, was kidnapped while in office and killed after 55 days, then left in the trunk of a car between the headquarters of the Christian Democratic party and the Socialist. Symbolic? To say that a terrible frisson went through the Italian political system in the aftermath would be an understatement.
No such frisson is abreast during the crisis caused by a former ally of Berlusconi. They are both on the right, which means more trustworthy on foreign policy matters than the left, which still thinks there are principled positions to follow in international affairs. Maybe supporting Iran and North Korea.
In any case, the historian and political analyst Michael Ledeen has a wonderful tale to tell about Berlusconi and Bettino Craxi whom, if you scratch your head, you may remember. That is if your memory goes back at least a quarter century. His two books on Italian fascism, Fascism: An Informal Introduction to its Theory and Practice and D’Annunzio: The First Duce, are splendid. The far left hates him.