Besieged Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is “a national joke,” Michael Wolff writes in Vanity Fair. He’s also immensely popular. In the midst of his most recent sex scandal, he and his party were handily reelected. What’s the deal? To begin with, “he controls his country’s dominant political party, its primary television networks, and its government.” So what if he's an incorrigible Lothario—"a dime-store Sinatra”—whose wife airs their dirty laundry and seeks divorce?
In him, Italians see their own excesses. “Italians need someone like him because he is just like them. Everybody has a mistress,” says an Italian journalist. "Everybody cheats on taxes." But Berlusconi has also used his political prowess to protect his sexual exploits—by getting a law passed to prevent prosecution while he's in office, along with an airtight libel law. "We need a strong man,” the journo continues. “If not Mussolini, well, then someone like Mussolini.”