Is the United States learning way too much from Italy?

VINCENZO PINTO/AFP/Getty Images These days, Washington is looking more and more like Rome. Unfortunately, the similarity is not in sunny alleys, cobblestone streets, angel-hair pasta, or renaissance stone angels pouring water from fruit baskets. It’s about politics. The scandal over the firings of U.S. attorneys brought to light a practice that has long been at ...

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600734_070710_trastevere_05.jpg

VINCENZO PINTO/AFP/Getty Images

These days, Washington is looking more and more like Rome. Unfortunately, the similarity is not in sunny alleys, cobblestone streets, angel-hair pasta, or renaissance stone angels pouring water from fruit baskets. It's about politics.

The scandal over the firings of U.S. attorneys brought to light a practice that has long been at the heart of Italian political cuisine: "Generously sprinkle every government agency with loyal cronies."

VINCENZO PINTO/AFP/Getty Images

These days, Washington is looking more and more like Rome. Unfortunately, the similarity is not in sunny alleys, cobblestone streets, angel-hair pasta, or renaissance stone angels pouring water from fruit baskets. It’s about politics.

The scandal over the firings of U.S. attorneys brought to light a practice that has long been at the heart of Italian political cuisine: “Generously sprinkle every government agency with loyal cronies.”

And Vice President Dick Cheney’s claim that he is immune from executive orders echoes former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s refusal to appear in court in a process against him because, as prime minister, he had much more compelling things to do.

President Bush’s recent decision to commute Scooter Libby’s sentence—which lawyers say will have deep implications for the U.S. legal system—is a classic of Italian politics 101: “screw the system, save your men!”

And yet, the Bush team still looks like a bunch of amateurs compared to its Italian counterparts. The latest? An Italian newspaper recently reported that the Italian secret services had been illegally monitoring left-leaning generals, judges, and journalists in order to discredit prominent critics of the former right-of-center government. Hopefully, the CIA has been the subject of too much bad press of late to take inspiration from this.

Erica Alini is a Rome-based researcher for the Associated Press.

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