An object lesson for the Democrats
ROME -- Romano Prodi couldn't live with them and couldn't live without them. The far-left fringe of his fragile coalition, they are the parties that noisily opposed the premier's U.S.-friendly policies on keeping Italian troops in Afghanistan and expanding U.S. bases in Italy.
Those tensions forced Prodi to resign Wednesday after he lost a key foreign policy vote in the Senate - and threaten to usher in a new era of turmoil in Italian politics.
Prodi needed the leftists to edge out Silvio Berlusconi in elections in May 2006. But they have paralyzed his ability to govern.
From the start, Prodi's government was fraught with friction, as it struggled to meet European Union demands to cut Italy's budget deficit and increase productivity while seeking to please its electorate by maintaining Italy's generous welfare state.
But foreign policy proved to be its downfall.
Prodi and D'Alema's efforts to raise Italy's profile in NATO and the EU while weaning the government away from Berlusconi's cozy relationship with Bush were not enough to please the more radical wing of the center-left alliance.
"I believe Italy is today the only country in the West where nearly 10 percent of the voters believe in an anti-American platform," said political analyst Stefano Folli. [Ed.--Signore Folli should come visit. He might be suprised at how many American voters believe in an anti-American platform.] "This explains the aversion to foreign policy, which is an aversion to the alliance with the United States."
For example, Lidia Menapace, a member of the Senate's Defense Commission, says U.S. and NATO bases are an "infringement of Italian territory" and that after the fall of the Berlin Wall NATO should simply "dissolve itself."
While Prodi has tried to play a major role as a peacekeeper in Lebanon, his ally, Communist Party leader Oliviero Diliberto, returned from a visit to Lebanon and Syria and said Hezbollah was a "victim of stereotyping."
Pictured on his party's Web site wearing a Palestinian scarf, Diliberto assailed Israeli criticism of his visit as "offensive."
Another communist leader, Marco Ferrando, defended banners held up during a recent protest that called for the release of a group of Italians arrested on terrorism charges as Red Brigades suspects.
"Let's hope that after this trauma, the radical left understands that political suicide is in nobody's interest," D'Alema said.
Clinton understands this, I believe. Should she get herself elected by the Cindy Sheehan, 911-Truther crowd, she won't have the political capital to accomplish much more than overseeing our withdrawal from Iraq.