Before there was a real-estate-magnate-turned-TV-star angling to be the leader of the United States, a real-estate-magnate-turned-TV-star really was the leader of Italy.
In 1994, Silvio Berlusconi was elected Prime Minister of Italy, after he appealed to a fed-up country by promising to shake up the political field. Sound familiar? He entered the the campaign on a conservative leaning upstart ticket that appealed to the blue collar workers who were disenfranchised with a system they felt didn’t consider them. Sound familiar? He ran on a jingoistic campaign, vowing to protect Italy from the Communists, a campaign where he seemed bulletproof and progressively picked up unexpected momentum. Sound familiar?
The list of similarities is almost perfectly reflective, from the competitive arrogance (listen to them brag about their riches) to the unfiltered sewage line of a mouth (famously called the Obamas “suntanned”) to the revolving door of self-affirming celebrity arm candy (models, actresses, you name it). Thanks to history’s propensity for repetition, we might be able to look into the past to get a glimpse of the future. So here are some of the hi-lights from Berlusconi’s time in office, hi-lights which, if we’re lucky, we might just get to see Trump repeat.
Underaged Sex Parties: Let’s just start with the meat here. Berlusconi used to have “Bunga Bunga” parties at his palatial villa in Milan. Attendees of said parties detailed some of the raunch that went on there, including a special penis statue that the Prime Minister would bring out for them to kiss. He promised women that he would make them into TV weather women if they stayed around for the schtupping, made them sing songs about him at the gang bang (“thank goodness for Silvio”) and got into hot water for the underaged sex workers he was arrested for banging. That’s right, the PM got got for bedding a 17-year-old Moroccan. More on that next. But I’m sure that ole Don Trump would show all kinds of restraint if he were fortunate enough to have an even more powerful title in an even more powerful country. Of course he would.
Jail Sentences: Berlusconi got arrested for the 17-year-old dancer, then got in even more trouble when he used political favor to try and weasel the girl out of jail. The dust up cost him seven years in prison…oh wait, no it didn’t, he’s a corrupt politician and the sentence got overturned. Of the 30 times Berlusconi has been brought to trial over his life, he’s only been subject to one definitive conviction. That conviction came on charges of tax fraud, for which he served four years…oh wait, no he didn’t, he’s a corrupt politician and he got only a year of community service.
It’s been some 40 years since Richard Nixon left office because of Watergate, and 20 since Bill Clinton was impeached for getting his sax played. 20 years used to be the cycle upon which we saw U.S. Presidents dying in office. Might the new cycle be grand jury hearings? Berlusconi has been tried for everything from benign fraud, embezzlement, corruption and bribery, but even up to questions about his connections with massacres committed by the Sicilian Mafia. Real bland stuff.
Tight Knit Relationship with Vladamir Putin: The combination of Putin, Berlusconi and Tump in a room somewhere has the making of some kind of sick joke. It’s like if the bullies from the three local middle schools had a convention with one another. The mutual-bully-respect is apparent, and one can only imagine them trading notes on close-quarters intimidation. Surely enough, Berlusconi and Putin almost orchestrated a back alley oil deal, before the Italian Parliament stopped it due to the benefits that Silvio stood to gain from the deal. Further, Berlusconi is seen as Putin’s mouthpiece to the rest of Europe, as the their friendship entails the swapping of lavish gifts, and, one can only assume, under the table hand jobs. Putin already thinks Trump is “bright and talented“, so who’s to say what heights the love triangle could reach?
Sticky Business Deals: Trump’s bottom line has always been important to him. The same was true for Berlusconi. Unfortunately for him, the Italian government saw that as a conflict of interest. Still the Italian Prime Minister gave them a meaty middle finger and continued to pursue his business ventures from office. That included Mediaset, the company of which he retained ownership while he was in office. A company that is now worth a casual $3.4 billion dollars. So if you think a position on Pennsylvania Avenue is going to stop Donald Trump from hawking shitty ribeye, shitty wine, overpriced hotel rooms and overpriced green fees, think again. Speaking of Berlusconi’s top business venture, it was after all a media company, which looks like another thing we have to look forward to.
Government Owned Media: Berlusconi entered office with a Trump-like vice grip on the national narrative, but he also owned a huge share of the actual media companies. That would be like Trump owning Fox News while he was running for president. And while he was president. This gave Berlusconi an important narrative influence, on how often the nation saw him and in what light. Not only that, but he was able to direct the countries eye to what he believed the problems of the Italy were, thus giving him the advantage of being the perfect guy to fix all the problems. For example, Berlusconi could put a media spotlight on crime, making it look like the worst problem of the day, and then follow up the story with one about how tough Berlusconi was going to be on crime. Sandwich that between a Berlusconi ad, or at least one for the AC Milan football club which he owns, and boom, you have full media dominance.
And do ya think that’s not something Donald Trump is chasing? He’s already expressed his willingness to sue the media over negative reports they have run. Why even waste the time on litigation? Turn the Press Secretary’s office to a Situation Room style studio and boom, you have all Trump all the time. We’re getting close to that already, why not make it network official?
Promises Won’t Come True: Berlusconi’s gaffes were not exclusively situational foot-in-mouth style blunders. He actually fucked shit up in a big way. His gaudy rhetoric and brazen promises proved to be little more weighty than the hot air he put behind them. He promised to bring a million jobs to Italy. He lost 300,000 jobs in his first 7 month stint as PM. He promised to end homelessness. In office he cut funds for public housing. He promised to cut taxes. At it’s peak, the tax rate went to 54%, leaving the country in the lurch during Europe’s financial crisis. Oh, that and the fact that during his time in office, Italy ranked among the lowest economic growth rates in the world. So much for all that business acumen paying off once he got to office.
So, through historic extrapolation, it seems as if the chances of Donald Trump building a wall, along with whatever else he is promising, are pretty low of conferring. The only thing we are guaranteed if the copycatting continues is a lot of entertainment.