I’ve been in Rome for a week, with ten days to go, and have asked people what they think of the Obama administration and of the Berlusconi government in Italy. I should note that I’ve been talking to Italian academics, so my sample is hardly representative.
Everyone I have talked to sees Obama’s election as a great triumph of American democracy. The most surprising thing I’ve heard—surprising to me, at least—is a view that President Obama has already shown a willingness to make courageous decisions, as exemplified by his plan to reverse the limitations on stem cell research. This struck me as an odd illustration, both because a significant majority of Americans agree with the administration’s stance, and because is unrelated to the urgent economic crisis.
The people I have talked to so far are not Berlusconi enthusiasts. Perhaps their greatest worry is that Berlusconi has significant control over the media. He owns three of the handful of major television channels, and can use the government’s purchase of space in newspapers (e.g., for notices of various kinds) to influence newspaper coverage. These concerns seem to me to make complaints about media bias in the 2008 U.S. election appear trivial by contrast.