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Overdose of ego

Sometimes, political gambits can propel savvy officials to the forefront of the party hierarchy.  Other times, power moves leave parties divided and the politician himself looking foolish.  The charismatic right wing politician who tried to throw a monkey wrench in the legislative process of his government last week has been dealing with the fallout ever since.   Media outlets, the general public, and even members of his own party have questioned his motives for the stunt, many seeing it as a move to consolidate power and advance his political prospects.  Not even the news outlets owned by the politician himself have been able to spin the story in his favor.

Let me clarify.  I am not referring to Texas Senator Ted Cruz, who droned on for 21 hours last week trying to stop progress from being made in the negotiations over raising the debt ceiling.  I was actually talking about former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, though the similarity between the circumstances the two men find themselves in is striking.

Both of these men have participated in political brinksmanship that has threatened the economic well-being of his country.  Berlusconi attempted to undermine his government and throw the recession-mired Italian market into a new crisis, while Cruz and other conservative members of Congress holding the financial stability of the U.S. hostage in order to remove a single piece of despised legislation.  Cruz’s theatrics were in opposition to the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare, while Berlusconi claimed the last straw that led to his revolt was the recent tax increase approved by the Italian parliament.

While these measures may be unpopular with the political bases of both men, the radical tactics used to oppose them have invariably caused more harm than good.  And both are experiencing major pushback from their own parties, Cruz from moderate Republicans who feel that his rhetoric has painted the party into a corner and Berlusconi from several senators in his center right party, which may now split into several parties.

There are of course, major differences between the two situations.  The political systems are inherently different, and Ted Cruz, unlike Silvio Berlusconi, is not on the brink of being banned from the legislature for tax fraud.  But both men may have doomed themselves to political irrelevance.

If Berlusconi was hoping to get any leniency from the legislature that will soon decide his ability to participate in Italian politics, he may have just shot himself in the foot.  It will be incredibly difficult for him to justify receiving clemency for his crimes when he so recently tried to sabotage the fiscal recovery process of the country for his own political gain.  Cruz might become more popular with segments of the Republican base, which could help him during the primaries if he’s interested in a run at the presidency.  But the same tactics that may have endeared him to the more extreme elements of his party could come back to bite him in the general election.

Both Cruz and Berlusconi tried to get their way by self-centered grandstanding.  Their ambition was matched only by the enormity of their egos, and (hopefully) the repercussions of their actions.

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