Speed Reads

Everything old is new again

Italy's Silvio Berlusconi, on the comeback trail, hates being compared to Trump

You may see similarities between President Trump and former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi — both elderly billionaires have suspiciously tanned skin, surgically enhanced hair, reputations for active libidos, high esteem for Russia's Vladimir Putin, a penchant for mixing their business and politics, anti-immigrant politics, and a preternatural ability to drive their critics crazy. But don't tell that to Berlusconi.

The former Italian leader is making his political comeback, The New York Times reports, though his long string of business and sex scandals led Parliament to bar him from holding office until 2019, he was convicted of tax fraud in 2013, and he still faces trial for alledgedly bribing witnesses to keep silent about his sex-fueled Bunga Bunga parties. In March 4 elections, Berlusconi, 81, is expected to emerge as kingmaker, the Times' Jason Horowitz reports:

His resurrection is both astonishing and entirely unsurprising when one considers that Mr. Berlusconi has over the decades conditioned and desensitized an electorate that has picked him as prime minister three times despite, well, everything. ... In a measure of how unpredictable global politics have become, things have come back around for the pre-Trump era's leading personification of conflicts of interest, outsize appetites, and the politics of victimization and press demonization. In the age of President Trump — comparisons to whom Mr. Berlusconi cannot stand — the Italian mogul has successfully recast himself as grandfather, or nonno, to the nation. [The New York Times]

Berlusconi, who appears almost nightly on the TV stations he owns, "has been deeply reluctant to discuss" Trump, Horowitz writes, but "one person who spoke privately with the Berlusconi family" about Trump said "Berlusconi had a low opinion of the American president and disliked being compared to him." "Surely Berlusconi doesn't love it," close ally Giovanni Toti tells the Times. "It's a mistake to compare Trump to one of the most experienced statesmen in Europe." Read more about Berlusconi's improbable comeback at The New York Times.