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Obama and Berlusconi--Skeel

A week ago, at the end of a nine day trip to Italy, I waded through a vast protest in against Prime Minister Berlusconi. At a reception that evening, an Italian former student explained that, after Berlusconi’s minions missed the filing deadlines for regional elections, he simply had a law passed to change the rules. For my former student and millions of Italians, this was the final straw. Many of the protestors carried signs saying “Basta”—that is, Enough.

I first heard about the “deem and pass” strategy the Democrats were originally planning to use to pass healthcare the next day, when I returned to the U.S. I couldn’t help but think of the similarities between President Obama’s willingness to cut procedural corners and Berlusconi’s.  Overall, the differences between the two are far more pronounced than the similarities. Through his control of many of the main television stations and newspapers and through threats to others, Berlusconi has largely stifled the Italian media.  In the U.S., the media is much more wide open.   In addition, Berlusconi’s battle seems entirely personal at this point—an effort to cling to power—whereas Obama is fighting for a reform he campaigned on and is obviously committed to.
But here, as in Italy, assuming that citizens will overlook procedural manipulations because of an underlying confidence in their leader is a dangerous strategy.  It may work once, but even considering these kinds of tactics in the coming debates over financial reform and other legislative issues could have devastating consequences for Americans’ already shaky confidence in government.


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Comments ( 4 )

I hope one day you'll reconsider posts like this. In the end it will only exhibit what a partial and blinkered grasp of the moment that you had. I do appreciate much of what you do on this blog, however, so thanks much for that. But comparing Obama and Berlusconi--sheesh.

Not sure if partiality should be a sufficient reason for Prof. Skeel to reconsider such posts. Just as a certain sort of partiality is present in your comment CTMathewes, we all inherently have our own leanings and inclinations. I personally find his comparison apt. The surreptitious manner in which this bill was passed, along with all of the pork handouts can only increase the suspicion Americans have for our federal government, especially since the majority of Americans opposed this bill.

Nonetheless, if you disagree with the point, you can discuss why. I find such arguments that try to stem arguments that are too "partial" akin to a snake eating its own tail. For every partial issue you disagree with, your own (partial as well) points are susceptible to the same sort of limit. I find it better even if there are partisan issues, to hash them out in discussion, of course in a civil manner. I hope you don't construe this as a personal attack as I am more interested to see why you think his comparison is not so fitting.

Anyways, I will also agree that I find much of this blog informative and edifying.

YES...WELL, I have my own "sheesh" comment. Dr. Skeel's perception of Obama is VERY different from mine. All of his actions to date (and of his hench(wo)man, Pelosi, do seem to point that he is "committed", to his agenda. But I see clearly that that agenda is quite a bit DIFFEERENT than what he campaigned for when you get down to both the specifics and to the methods. CHANGE is about all we have gotten that relates to his promises and those changes are all disastrous. There have been NO bipartisan efforts, there has been NO transparency, there will be NO reduction in medical costs (well, unless you are an illegal alien) and on and on.

That does NOT, however, take away from his grasping of power and clinging to it. Or even how he GOT elected to begin with.

How quickly Americans seem to have forgotten ACORN and how they trampled on the voting laws. The questions in the census are designed to give them (the current ins) even more gerrymandering control and if Pelosi and Obama have no problem running fast and loose with voting procedures in Congress, I have NO doubt that same type of "adaptability" will go on in the general elections.

In my opinion, you give the man far too much credit.

I'm glad that Jo McCabe posted under her or his own name. I'm sad that Anonymous felt it better not to name her or himself.

As for me, I'm not interested in engaging in these debates, but I will say that Berlusconi is a terrific clown, clearly quite sleazy, a bigot, and more like Donald Trump than anyone else on the US scene. Berlusconi is not like Obama, or GWBush, or Cheney, or Palin, or any of our major political actors; in terms of his faux populism, his bigotry, and his moral sleaziness, he reminds me most of all of (again) Trump or Limbaugh.

And I have the good fortune of being (relatively) young and so it's likely I'll be around when Bush's reputation is assessed in twenty or so years (his second term wasn't nearly as nightmarish as many on the left believe) and when Obama's reputation is assessed in thirty or so. I think then comparisons like this will seem distant, less emotionally engaging, but also silly.