CHNN’s managing editor has been clamoring, seemingly for weeks on end, for something – anything!!! – on Silvio Berlusconi, the 21st century’s first world-class, hair-plugged, near octogenarian diva, major domo buffo – and now! -  criminal defendant, with a prostitution charge stuffed inside a grab bag of official abuse allegations in his capacity as Italian prime minster.

The CHNN eastern desk reported recently that Harlan Harrington, the network’s go-to international correspondent and expert on Mediterranean scandals of all sorts, was skiing in Switzerland, accompanied by Lois Farnsworth, a former Miss North Dakota, and largely unavailable.

Until this week.

Harlan said he’s been overwhelmed, not to mention overdone, by the tempest in Italian politics, and has not been able to mount a massive,  Guernica-size report on Berlusconi’s titanic struggle to hold onto power.  Occasional thousand word pieces fail to do this story justice, Harlan said, and since the CHNN flying boat is in winter storage in Bismarck, he’s also had some difficulty just hopping down to Milan, as he is wont to do, to examine court briefs against the PM.

Still, Harlan does have a snippet of news, small beer though it may be to those ravenous readers of all things bunga bunga in Rome.

The prime minister, according to Harlan, met this week with a select group of Vatican leaders, ostensibly to celebrate the 82nd anniversary of the signing of the Lateran Pact of 1929.  The Roman Catholic church struck a deal at that time with then Italian leader Benito Mussolini, providing for official state recognition of Vatican City and it’s core structures.  The church built a village and people came, long before the idea occurred to Hillary Rodham Clinton.

The meeting between the clerics and the prime minister was described by observers as “correct,” as the church, itself embroiled in a worldwide institutional sexual abuse scandal, appeared to be sensitive to the need to reach out to the prime minister, somehow or other, without appearing to ignore or condone the colorful contours of the premier’s personal life.

Back to the small beer.

Italian reporters helped Harlan out a bit with some details of the meeting, pointing out that church leaders still see Berlusconi as an ally on right to life issues, and as a possible source of money – direct, or, if need be, indirect.

A bill now before the Italian parliament,  and favored by the church, would include a one euro ($1.36) tax hike on commercial movie tickets.  Church-owned “family friendly” theaters would be exempt.

As picayune as such a negotiating point might appear to the uninformed, non-Italian political observer, Harlan emphasized the Machiavellian quality to the church-state dance now underway between Vatican leaders and Berlusconi.

Observers said Berlusconi, sitting in a large, blood-red upholstered, gold-leaf wing chair, appeared to wince slightly as the ticket issue was raised in whispered tones by a cleric assigned to the task.  The Leader then nodded as if in assent, conveying a confessional demeanor.

Harlan ended his report to the CHNN eastern desk with this quote from an Italian legislator:  “The church has an enormous influence on politics still,” says Italo Bocchino, a lawmaker who defected from Mr. Berlusconi’s party  last year (the political party, not the one at his Sicilian retreat with Vladimir Putin).  “If the church had said Berlusconi was incompatible with governing, he would have fallen.  But they didn’t.”

Catholic reporter Andrea Gagliarducci observed:  “It is diplomacy.  You take everything you can.  You make agreements even with people you don’t trust.”

Harlan told the eastern desk  he’s thinking of bringing that message personally – along with a large shipment of The Prince in paperback – to activists and leaders in Madison, Wisconsin, and maybe Ohio, as soon as he packs his skis and can get himself and Lois on a plane back to Bismarck.


  1. The Heel says:

    Gotta love Benito Berlusconi,

    After all, he brought beautiful people into office. A TV moderator here, a porn star there. He has orgies with prostitutes and the blessing of the Pope.

    I mean come on, seriously, isn’t this full on, Roman-Renaissance-Hedonism so much more colorful and entertaining than, say a weeping Boner or some sexually up tied wing-nut hag?

    Viva Italia!