"Economy Ailing, Frustrated Italy Picks Berlusconi" is theless than triumphantheadline to Ian Fisher's Tuesday off-lead marking the political comeback of media mogul Silvio Berlusconi, all but certain to become prime minister of Italy for the third time.
The Times' past coverage of Berlusconi, a Bush admirer and leader of a center-right coalition, has been possibly more hostile than that of the Communist dictator, paranoid and clown, Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez.
You can almost hear the regret in Fisher's dispatch from Rome:
Silvio Berlusconi, the idiosyncratic billionaire who already dominates much of Italy's public life, snatched back political power in elections that ended Monday, heading a center-right coalition certain to make him prime minister for a third term.
But with a weak economy and frustration high that Italy has lost ground to the rest of Europe, it was unclear whether Italians voted for Mr. Berlusconi out of affection or, as many experts said, as the least bad choice after the nation weathered two years of inaction from the fractured center-left.
Still, Italy now returns to a singular sort of personal politics with Mr. Berlusconi as the unquestioned protagonist.
Fisher starts early with the personal denigrations of Berlusconi, comparing him unfavorably to the man whose ruling coalition voters just rejected soundly:
Rejecting the sober responsibility of the departing prime minister, Romano Prodi, Italians chose in a moment of national self-doubt a man whose dramas - the clowning and corruption scandals, his rocky relations with his wife and political partners, his growing hairline and ever browner hair - play out very much in public.