There's hue and cry over the legacy of George W. Bush within an increasingly fractious conservative order, while foreign correspondents love to see Italian premier Berlusconi get into hot water and act like he's soaking it up in a Jacuzzi. Also, a new regimen out of the United Kingdom for bolstering the cortex is no black monolith, say most bloggers.
The right huff: Not since the Supreme Court nomination of Harriet Miers have the menacing shapes of conservative fever been more precise and alive. Paul Krugman today writes what amounts to a liberal nyah-nyah in the New York Times, just days after the libertarian CATO Institute hosted a forum on free-market Bush booing. With an executive approval rating at the lowest level since Nixon's during Watergate, a Dubai port deal scuttled by intraparty opposition, and Abu Ghraib's long-awaited closure transpiring with a demoralized whimper, bloggers are acutely attuned to the inner rhythms of discord emanating from the righty mainstream.
To start with the defenders of the faith … First generation neocon John Podhoretz, from his Friday perch in the New York Post, believes the Dubai business might have been Bush's blessing in disguise: "[I]n handing the president his hat, his party did him a service. Republicans have made certain that a few months from now most Americans will barely remember the whole business, which really did threaten the continued viability of his presidency." To map the evolution of political principles is, as ever, a simple matter of following the money, according to Bill Quick at Daily Pundit, who notes how Republican front-runners for 2008 aren't exactly distancing themselves from lame-duck Rolodexes or coffers. Quoting Howard Fineman's latest Newsweek article, which explains that John McCain—Rudy Giuliani's only real competition for the GOP nomination—is "lining up local party loyalists and shaking the same establishment money tree that, in the 2000 campaign, he complained had given Bush a pampered, rich kid's advantage," Quick footnotes: "And, I suspect, using Bush's very own private Big Black Book to do it with."
But Kemp at the lefty The "Bush"-Whacked Administration is more hopeful of a rift that crumbles the vast conservative edifice: "While Republican Senators and Congressman run away from Bush, his approval among registered Republicans is falling also as his approvals have plunged from 82% back in February, to 74% now. What makes this troublesome for the GOP (but exhilarating for the Democratic leadership) is that this is a midterm election year and parties are relying on enthusiasm from their most loyal groups." He has company across the aisle in "Lonely Federalist," a commenter at the ideologically bifurcated Donklephant, who answers the call for fiscal responsibility with the option of tough midterm love: "Hopefully, with the Abramhoff deal, the usurpation of Delay and the fiscally conservative wing of the party finally starting to flex its muscle, maybe…just maybe…there's been a Perfect Storm achieved for fiscal responsibility to be reintroduced…If not, I have no problem relegating them to minority status so they can get some time to think about it."
Read more about the widening breach within mainstream conservatism.
Silvio's agita: Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi—a media mogul worth of $12 billion—may be the target of state indictment if Milanese prosecutors get their way. Berlusconi is being accused of bribing his lawyer David Mills, the now-estranged husband of British Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell, to give false testimony in his behalf, pertaining to investigations surrounding the billionaire's financial holdings. Bloggers aren't particularly shocked that Il Signor's flamboyance may have finally caught up with him.
If Berlusconi is a modern Nero, all the greater the amusment to rakish Tory MP Boris Johnson: "Silvio Berlusconi is a landmark of modern politics. There is no one to touch him for sheer exuberant outrageousness. In his speech, in his dress, his bandanas, his face-lifts, his ludicrous 1950s cruise-ship sexism, he is a standing reproach to the parade of platitudinous Pooters that pass across the stage of international diplomacy."
But insofar as the Italian elections are less than a month away, and Berlusconi still trails in the polls, indictment is really just fresh pepper on a forbidding al dente cuisine of troubles, according to Judy Harris, the "Rome correspondent" at left-wing journo Doug Ireland's blog Direland: "The two traditional pillars of the Italian economy, metal-mechanics and textile-apparels, have long been in the doldrums because of competitors from rivals with far lower labor costs. More recently the scandals in the foods industry (Parmalat) and banking (the forced resignation of the Italian equivalent of Alan Greenspan) have brought a serious lack of prestige. The Mills affair is another nail in the coffin."
Showers for Algernon: According to this Guardian piece, the BBC will host a series this Saturday to explore the efficacy of supposedly quick and easy methods for improving one's (short-term) intelligence. On "Get Smarter in a Week," 100 volunteers are shown brushing their teeth with the wrong hand, taking showers with their eyes closed and memorizing phone numbers—all to enhance the old gray matter.
Tunisian Web designer Mohamed Marwen Meddah, at his personal blog Subzero Blue, ain't buying it: "Personally, the whole learn this in 21 days, do that in 24 hours, get that in 7 days, lose weight in 3 hours, blah blah concept is pretty much nonsense to me. I believe everything is possible as long as we're ready to put in the amount of work necessary to make it happen."
Similarly skeptical is Vaughan at Mind Hacks: "One of the best ways of making yourself 'cleverer' is to understand how to evaluate scientific claims, particularly when they're used as ideas for TV programmes."
Read more about the get-smart quick scheme.