Respond to this Article June 2006

Mark & Silvio

An historical reenactment

By T.A. Frank

TO: Prime Minister Berlusconi
FROM: Mark Penn
DATE: April 5, 2006

RE: Next week's election

Dear Silvio,

I apologize for the talking point about the testicles. (I'm telling you, Maddie Albright got a bounce when she talked about Cuba and cojones -- maybe try it in Spanish.) And sorry for the Christ comparison idea. (We had excellent numbers on Jesus.) But I stand by the line about the Chinese. Remember, you have to focus on the concerns of average Italian voters -- jobs, healthcare, and Chinese babies boiled into fertilizer by Communists.

Some other points:

Your line about Italian secretaries being the most beautiful in the world went over well with visiting foreign investors. But, true, it has cost you some support among women voters -- mainly in the 18-to-85 demographic. I think the way to patch that up might be through the media. (I'm told you control about 90 percent of that, and that is definitely something we should leverage.)

Our polls show that voters associate the Berlusconi brand fairly strongly with organized crime, and this is dragging down your numbers in the non-incarcerated voting segment. What you need is a Sister Souljah moment. We recommend that you invite James Gandolfini to Italy and publicly berate him.

You've said, "I fight communism the way Churchill fought against Nazism." Great comparison -- under-45 rural women really like that sort of confidence. But you should go with a positive message about what you're fighting for, like: "Churchill fought against Nazism, but I'm fighting for jobs, healthcare, and education." That worked for Tom Vilsack.

I like your line about how "Only Napoleon did more than I have done," and it's given you a 30 percent spike on Corsica. But, since that's in France, how about someone more local? Augustus Caesar, for instance, also had a lot of legislative accomplishments.

Final suggestion. I don't always recommend this, but denial can be a genuine ace-in-the-hole. If the numbers go against you, and if the courts rule against you, do not -- repeat, do not -- concede. Drag it out for several embarrassing weeks. Or just stay in office. That was my advice to Bob Mugabe.

Sincerely,

Mark

T.A. Frank is a consulting editor of The Washington Monthly.


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