The impeachment machinations taking place in Washington these days are old hat in Italy.
In Italy’s parliamentary system, ousting a prime minister can be accomplished with votes of no-confidence, which can force new elections, or by realigning party alliances to share power. Our constitution has none of that. Instead we have government shutdowns and impeachments.
If you recall the Silvio Berlusconi era in Italian politics (1994-2011), it was very similar to what is happening in the Trump era here. Berlusconi was famous for his decadent lifestyle, complete with call girls and ole boy relations with Putin and W. Bush. He was constantly being sued for tax evasion, high crimes and misdemeanors, and anything else his opponents could use to yank him from power without an election. Berlusconi managed to postpone or dodge any and all political coups, retaining the loyalty of his party’s Forza Italia voters. His undoing was foreign intervention.
Then, as now, Italy’s excessive national debt depended on selling low interest bonds. Berlusconi’s tax cuts and big spending led U.S. and European money men to threaten to raise their rates. Berlusconi was “persuaded” to resign for the nation’s fiscal well-being. Still, as PM for nine years, he is the longest serving prime minister since Mussolini. Last July, he was elected to the European Parliament at age 82.
If Berlusconi could survive the no-holds-barred parliamentary system, Donald Trump’s odds of beating the rap on impeachment look especially good with a Republican majority Senate. Besides, he’s not the type of guy who can be persuaded to resign.
Trump’s ultimate weapon is the media. He and the mainstream media hate each other. While Trump says so openly, the major networks pretend not to. As more viewers discern the difference, mainstream media loses its credibility. Lucky for Trump, they can turn to the FOX network.
If it weren’t for FOX News Trump might have succumbed to his enemies already. (Berlusconi actually owned the major part of Italian television, so he had his back covered.) Surprisingly, FOX manages to dig up damning video clips of Trump’s enemies saying things totally opposite from their current political stance. But you’d have to watch FOX to see them. Likewise, the current Ukrainian issue – where Joe Biden and his son Hunter figure large – are given damning airtime on FOX but not on mainstream news.
To add spice to the subject, mainstream media and Trump’s opponents have lately chosen a familiar tack. The infamous Ukraine telephone call is now compared to another Italian figure: Don Corleone. His “do me a favor” line during the conversation with the Ukrainian president is being characterized as a subtle “mafia” shakedown. Andrea Mitchell of NBC News and Nicholas Kristof of the NY Times have both made that allusion, echoing House Representative Adam Schiff (D-CA) who even created a Mob “translation” of the phone call.
Trump has both allies and enemies among Italian Americans. How Secretary of State Michael Pompeo has survived this long as a confidant defies explanation. The House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) is a stalwart. And, of course, Rudy Giuliani sticks like glue, often seeming to be a liability rather than an asset. Trump’s worst enemy is House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who has now crossed the Rubicon with impeachment. Even FOX News is somewhat divided with staffer Judge Andrew Napolitano claiming the Trump-Ukraine phone call is an impeachable offense.
Without a truly multi-party system, we are all stuck with the two antagonists we have. At least in Italy, with its multi-party system, the nation can assemble a workable government even in a crisis. After Berlusconi was ousted, Italians managed to install a “caretaker” government until elections were held without the nation shutting down.
So, as our nation is sidetracked with an impeachment you may want to include FOX News for information balance. Specifically, watch or tape The Five, daily at 5:00 pm. One of the five commentators is a Democrat, usually African American Juan Williams, who can hold his own against the other four. Dana Perino, a former W. Bush press secretary is a regular and Emily Campagno, a sharp attorney, fills a rotating spot. It’s the closest you’ll get to ALL the facts.
Some may see Italian politics as a joke, but don’t take our system too seriously. -JLM