Berlusconi and the wiseness of Mubarak

“The wisest of men” line isn’t the former’s, but ben trovato it certainly is.

<a href=''>Tutta colpa di mia nipote Ruby</a>, CC by <a href=''>cagiflickr</a>

Tutta colpa di mia nipote Ruby, CC by cagiflickr

I don’t think that anyone would disagree that the British press–for reasons of tribe or commerce–applies differing standards to southern Europe’s two major populist buffoons. Perhaps nowhere is this more true than at the Guardian, where Zapatero has tended to be treated well or not at all, while the comparably disastrous Berlusconi has attracted brickbats where none were due and in the unlikely event that he has achieved anything positive during his reign then we have certainly not been told.

In a curious reversal of Marxist sociology, the fact that Italian unemployment is less than half Spain’s seems to be regarded as a superstructural detail not worth mentioning, while social and cultural policy (whether it can be paid for or not) seems in the minds of Guardian journalists to have replaced economically productive relationships as the base of human society, at least when it comes to seaside destinations like Italy and Spain.

And so today the Guardian repeats (but doesn’t link) a Reuters item (Francesco Guarascio, ed Tim Pearce) to the effect that Berlusconi

has praised Hosni Mubarak and said the Egyptian president should remain in place during the country’s transition to democracy. Berlusconi told reporters in Brussels:

I hope there can be continuity in government. I hope that in Egypt there can be a transition toward a more democratic system without a break from President Mubarak, who in the West, above all in the United States, is considered the wisest of men and a precise reference point [sic].

The “wisest man” phrase would fit in nicely with the cliché of Berlusconi the blithering idiot, unable to see the political wood for trees with whom he has a personal relationship. Unfortunately Reuters appears to be only early source to have heard this version. For example the state news agency, AGI, run by the left-leaning Giuliano De Risi, says that:

The Prime Minister is confident … “and I think all western countries think the same”, that “there may be in Egypt a transition towards a more democratic system without breaking with a president like Mubarak, who throughout the West, the United States in the lead, has always been regarded as a wise man and precise point of reference for the entire Middle East. ”

Il premier confida … “e credo tutti i paesi occidentali pensino la stessa cosa”, che “ci possa essere in Egitto una transizione verso un sistema piu democratico senza rotture con un presidente come Mubarak, che tutto l’Occidente, Stati Uniti in testa, ha sempre considerato come uomo saggio e punto di riferimento preciso per tutto il Medio Oriente”.

With the invented superlative removed Berlusconi is merely parroting the official Italian line–see for example comments by Italy’s better-than-average foreign minister, Franco Frattini, ten days ago. So, much ado about nothing–except that this happy invention will flood the net to the detriment of the rather remarkable pictures of Berlusconi naked with his harem, now doing the rounds.

Still, it’s good to find that Iraq seems to have persuaded those who proclaim themselves leftwingers to drop the notion that the transition to democracy in the Middle East is best managed by dictators, even if many on the so-called right seem to have changed sides in the opposite direction.

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