Obamacare -vs-I Could Care Less: a view from Italy
By fmaggi on March 30, 2010
Regardless of what you think about the results of Sunday’s historic vote in America – to provide health care to all Americans, one thing is certain: most pundits agree that Obama and many in his party ‘put everything on the line’ -- their name, their party, their future - in order to form, what Obama loves to pronounce, “A more perfect union.” Democrats had been fighting for this cause for decades, with the now-Octogenarian Democratic Michigan Congressman John Dingell introducing a health care bill year after year, picking up where his father had left off.
For someone in Italy (and even countries from Canada to Costa Rica and beyond, the question wasn’t so much about ‘why’ the U.S. should be providing health care, but, ‘why not?’. This most basic of civil services, with all of its failings, is still a right in much of the civilized world. But, from where I sit in Rome, this is not the issue.
Instead, I’ve seen two party heads spending the last 18 months fighting – desperately at times – to change their countries. One, for the good of all their countrymen (even republicans). Another, for the good of himself and his party cronies. The ‘battles’ being played out night after night in the media could not be so markedly diverse; it’s as is if both were cruising along on magnificent ocean liners; except one was on the QEII and the other, in a strange, alternative world, so upside down that it would appear we were all on the Poseidon.
Berlusconi has proven to be quite adept at pursuing his ad personam laws, especially with a majority rubber-stamping parliament in place. Over the years, he’s successfully gotten a number of cases against him thrown out, all the while disparaging the judicial arm of Italy’s government. The pinnacle of his manoeuverings; passing a law giving people in power immunity from prosecution while in office. That really makes one confident that politicians will be acting in the best interests of their electorate.
Berlusconi, in his self-interest zeal, has not only maligned the judiciary, but he attacks the free press (those not owned by him, of course) regularly; getting journalists fired, pulling shows off the air, and now trying – as if reading from the Iran manual of media relations – to silence the bloggers (especially those that write mean things about him). His own channels and the public RAI1 play politics without care for 'equal opportunity on the airwaves'. Always trying to find a way to skirt the law, his new approach is that all bloggers need to be written up in the ‘albo’ or listing of journalists with degrees in it (and anyone who reads the rot written by many many ‘journalists’ in the Bel Paese will know that’s a real seal of quality). Even if you wanted to, how you would be ‘let in’, of course, would be up to a government stooge.
And finally, with this weekend’s Regional government elections. Berlusconi’s party has shown such an utter disregard for the rules of law that even President Napolitano, had to intervene. The party lists of candidates in many cities (including Milan and Rome) were not presented officially, excluding them from the elections. Berlusconi’s banter: “It doesn’t matter – we’ll get around this trivial detail.” And he then held an all-night law-making session to change the laws expost facto, once again showing total disregard for government and the people he supposedly represents.
It’s good to see Americans taking an interest in their politicians and the political processes – however pathetic – that get them their laws like National Healthcare. What’s sad is to see an entire country reaching a point of cynicism whereby ‘all politicians’ and politics are alike – and laws are made to suit themselves, not the people.
With a Prime Minister as the poster child of that “I could care less” cynicism.
Berlusconi still remains popular for the very chutzpah he shows at every turn – but, at what price, Italy?
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