Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has appalled the world with his crass remarks, yet somehow remains popular at home. "Is there a logic to what might seem like a strange form of Tourette's syndrome?" asks Alexander Stille, analyzing the gaffe-prone pol in The New Republic. The answer to Berlusconi's success seems to be simple enough, Stille concludes: It's Italy itself.
When the PM shocks heads of state by urging them to talk "soccer and women," Italians in corner bars can relate. When he blurts out off-color remarks, voters in a static economy consider it proof he is unlike the loathsome upper classes. No Italian politician can compete, and the press remains deferential. Berlusconi triumphs at home, writes Stille, with the very qualities that shock the world.