Trump vs. Conte: Here in Italy our pasta isn’t the only thing that’s better than in U.S.
Both came from nowhere to lead their countries. Both lead the countries with the most Covid-19 deaths in the world. Both address their nations on TV.
Both have a pulse — although I’m not sure both have hearts.
The similarities between Italy prime minister Giuseppe Conte and U.S. president Fuckface von Clownstick pretty much end there. As Italy’s coronavirus curve flattens and the United States’, until recently, followed the trajectory of Apollo 13, it’s time to compare the two leaders.
This is Day 52 in my Italy lockdown in Rome. I’ve left my neighborhood three times in seven weeks. I’ve cancelled three vacations. I’ve gone through every cookbook — in two languages — twice. I have severe dishpan hands. I’ve watched as the Lombardy region in my adopted country piles up bodies like it’s World War II. I’ve seen businesses in my beautiful city wither and die as well.
But I’ve also seen a man in Conte who calms me. He soothes me. He gives me confidence that we’ll get through this. He also tells me what to do, what we all must do, and only in that way can we get back to la dolce vita.
He has never used his pulpit to campaign for the next election. I don’t even know if he’s going to run. He has never patted himself on the back for a job well done. He has never lied, denied, taken credit for something he didn’t do then taken no responsibility for things that went wrong. And he sure never suggested we inject disinfectants.
Italians inject wine, not Lemon Gard.
Sunday night Conte got on national TV as his Phase 1 plan comes to an end with encouraging results. Italy’s number of actual positives (virus cases minus deaths and recovered) has been in negative numbers for eight of the last nine days. The number of people in intensive care units has trended down for three straight weeks. The percentage of new cases compared to the previous day’s total has been under 2 percent for 10 straight days and the percentage of deaths has been under 2 percent nine of the last 10 days.
Granted, world scientists warn that official numbers are likely much lower than reality, considering many infected people without symptoms have not been tested and many die without getting tested. This is why when Conte got on TV Sunday to introduce Phase 2, he came across optimistic but cautious.
Phase 2 begins
Beginning Monday, factories and parks will open and restaurants will be available for takeaway. On May 18, museums and retail businesses will open and soccer teams can begin training (although the season has not been rescheduled yet). Masks must be worn on public transportation. Schools will open in September. By Monday, he will have more specifics about loosening the restrictions of individual movement.
About 24 hours earlier, Mango Mussolini blew off his daily press briefing in Washington, whining in a tweet with the same level of grammar as his functionally illiterate cult following, “What is the purpose of having White House News Conferences when the Lamestream Media asks nothing but hostile questions, & then refuses to report the truth or facts accurately.”
Meanwhile, the Center for Disease Control had to make a statement telling people not to inject bleach, although buying stock in Clorox would be advisable.
From a country with a political history as fractured and unstable as a jigsaw puzzle, Conte is Caesar Augustus to Hair Hitler’s Dennis the Menace.
“(Conte) was the first leader of a democratic country to impose measures,” said Irene Caratelli, program director of International Relations and Global Politics at the American University of Rome. “Then the measures became a template.”
Who is Giuseppe Conte? Who is this man who just two years ago was a law professor and now is the prime minister with a 73-percent approval rating amidst Italy’s worst crisis since World War II? How’d this mid-level bureaucrat with an expansive vocabulary become a sex symbol and the subject of a movement called Le Bimbe di Giuseppe Conte (The Babes for Giuseppe Conte)?
Unlike Genghis Can’t, Conte, 55, wasn’t born with a silver cappuccino spoon in his mouth. He was born into a middle-class family in the tiny village of Volturara Appula, Puglia, (pop. 467) in the heel of Italy’s boot. His father was a public employee of a municipality and his mom an elementary school teacher.
Conte studied law at the Sapienza University of Rome’s law school and became a professor of private law at the University of Florence and LUISS, one of Rome’s private universities. He’s on the board of trustees at John Cabot University of Rome.
In February 2018 he was selected as a possible future minister of public administration in the Five Star Movement (M5S), a populist party that was gaining a major foothold in Italian politics. He’d take the position after the general election in March.
However, the March general election resulted in a hung parliament with M5S and the right-wing League party sharing power. After weeks of getting little done, Italy president Sergio Mattarella demanded the two parties appoint a neutral caretaker leader of the new government. The two parties tried working out a coalition but couldn’t come to agreement. On May 21, the two parties recommended Conte to be the new prime minister.
Conte was a safe choice. He was independent. He was neutral. He had no strong following. After his appointment he said he would be a “defense lawyer of the Italian people.”
And he was. He reformed the Italian tax system by introducing a flat tax for businesses and individuals and required no tax for low-income households. In September he introduced the Green New Deal to address climate change and economic inequality. He publicly praised students protesting climate change.
“What I think the challenge Conte has is not just to balance the health needs of Italians and the economic needs of the country but he’s pulling together a contentious coalition,” said American freelance journalist Eric J. Lyman, who writes frequently about Italian politics from Rome. “He’s really doing a high-wire act.”
Conte remained under the international gaze except in July when the Cheeto-Faced Cumtrumpet called him “my new friend” for his strong anti-immigration policy. Of course, New York Pork Dork even butchered that comment by spelling Conte’s name in the tweet “Giuseppi.” My baristas in my corner coffee bar write better English than the U.S. president.
Conte’s anonymity, however, evaporated quickly when the coronavirus hit Italy like an acid storm. France had the first coronavirus case in Europe but Italy was the first to get a major wave and Conte laid down the hammer. The first cases in Italy were two Chinese tourists in Rome on Jan. 31. That same day Conte suspended all flights to and from China.
On Feb. 21, 16 cases emerged in small towns in Lombardy and the next day came 60 more and the first death. Conte quarantined 11 towns around the outbreak’s epicenter and on March 8 quarantined all of Lombardy. On March 9, in a national address, he became the first leader to lock down an entire country.
Mistakes were made
He did make mistakes. On Jan. 21, Italy hosted a Chinese delegation for a concert at the National Academy of Santa Cecilia to inaugurate the year of an Italy-China Culture and Tourism. Early on he blamed Italy’s high numbers on aggressive testing. His shutdown strategy was always two steps behind the spread of the virus and critics say he didn’t communicate rules of isolation strong enough.
However, excuse Conte and Italy for never having faced a pandemic like this.
“I don’t think that the majority was his fault,” Lyman said. “He was listening to his advisors and nobody knew what they were dealing with at the beginning. Also, everybody made a mistake at the beginning. He did make some missteps and I was one of the people to write that from the very beginning. His message has been unclear sometimes but these seem to be very minor sins compared to other stuff we see from other countries.
“It’s hard for me to believe that Conte was in there listening to his doctors saying, ‘This is a big deal’ and he’s saying, ‘No, it’s not.’”
And when this started to roil into a catastrophe he didn’t get much help.
“Nobody was supporting,” Caratelli said. “France and the UK were very skeptical. Italy was left alone at the very beginning of the Covid-19 crisis. Europe was completely absent. Excuses and apologies came much later.”
Conte served as the guiding light for the rest of the world as the virus spread to every corner of the globe. Besides wearing masks, Conte emphasized the greater importance of isolation and social distancing. Except for my girlfriend, I haven’t touched another human being — or been within a meter of one — since early March.
Italy isn’t China where the government can tell 1.4 billion people to do something and they do it purely based on fear.
“I give Conte the biggest credit, the biggest feather in his cap, for taking what the cliche says is an ‘undisciplined population’ and convinced them to largely obey these rules,” Lyman said. “He’s done it by giving them the proof that there’s competent leadership, that what can be done is being done and what can’t be done they’re trying to figure out how to make it be done and they’re doing all the right steps based on science. They’re not making political calculations or emotional calculations.
“This is why for the most part 99 percent of Italians are obeying the rules. I never would’ve thought this at the beginning. I’d be like, National lockdown? For 50 days? Good luck.”
Caratelli does point out flaws in Conte’s Phase 2 message. People can go to funerals but not churches. Unlike in Germany which requires masks, Conte only strongly recommends it on the streets. Some doubt remains about schools actually opening in September. Some confusion remains.
WHO, EU at fault
Her biggest beefs are with more established organizations than Italy’s two-year-old government.
“We have institutions that are meant to prevent these crises, namely the World Health Organization and the World Health Organization has really not been doing its job,” she said. “If the World Health Organization had done its job we wouldn’t be where we are.”
She said the WHO waited until China invited it after the outbreak before investigating. She also said after Italy closed flights from China (“and were very strongly criticized for that”), the EU still allowed flights to go from Beijing to Berlin to Rome.
“What a stupid idea, to close your flights and keep flights within the European Union,” she said. “So the European Union didn’t do its job. The European Union should take a coordinated, collective response to what was happening, establishing a level of threat altogether and measures altogether.”
Hey, it could be worse. I could be living in the U.S. where the Fascist Carnival Barker saw what Italy was doing and instead of following suit and learning from Conte’s mistakes, he worked on his short game. From Jan. 31, when Italy banned flights from China, to March 8 Groper in Chief held six political rallies and played golf four times.
Look at Moneydiaper McStupid’s coronavirus timeline and it reads like the script of a bad sit-com:
Jan. 15 — First virus case hits U.S.
Jan. 30 — WHO declares a global health emergency.
Jan. 31 — U.S. puts restrictions on flights from China, barring entry from foreign nationals who had recently visited China and put some American travelers under quarantine.
Feb. 24 — Cheddar Boy tweets, “The Coronavirus is very much under control in the USA … Stock Market starting to look very good to me.”
March 9 — Sack of Gilded Lunchmeat tweets: “Last year 31,000 Americans died from the common flu … At this moment there are 546 confirmed cases of CoronaVirus, with 22 deaths. Think about that!”
March 13 — Unhinged Taco Truck declares national emergency.
March 16 — Teflon Don advises self isolation for 15 days.
March 17 — Short-Fingered Vulgarian says, “I felt it was a pandemic long before it was called a pandemic.”
March 26 — U.S. takes over world lead in coronavirus cases.
March 29 — Lord Dampnut extends social distancing to April 30.
April 11 — U.S. overtakes Italy for most deaths in the world with 19,877.
U.S. passing Italy in per capita
Unfair to compare the U.S. with Italy? OK. The U.S. has 3,151 cases per 1 million people to Italy’s 3,333 but at its rate will pass Italy this weekend. As of Wednesday, the U.S., with 4 percent of the world’s population, has 33 percent (1,035,765) of the world’s total coronavirus cases and 27 percent (59,266) of the world’s deaths.
About a dozen state capitals have had protests from mobs demanding looser restrictions in light of 26 million unemployed, meaning American’s second wave of coronavirus may be just around the nearest gravestone.
Unlike Conte, nothing the Decomposing Jack O’Lantern has done has instilled confidence, hope or guidance to anyone except blind cultists more interested in his brand than human lives. He is quickly catching James Buchanan as the worst president in U.S. history and if his public meltdown continues, by next fall what Joe Biden will face in debates will be a big pile of orange, hairy goo.
It saddens me to watch my old country circle the drain into economic armageddon with bodies piling up all over New York. But Italy is my home, forever more, and watching Conte on TV reassures me that the bel paese will return intact.
It’s what leadership does. Long before the U.S. lost its first life to this pandemic, it lost its leadership, too.
April 29, 2020 @ 12:41 pm
Grazie John, a nice recap of the situation. Conte is the best thing to happen to Italia in a loooong time. I hope he continues in politics-we need him! I love all your brilliant ‘pet names’ for the narcissistic oompah loompah man-child. You need to make a list of them all at some point. I won’t be making my annual trip to Roma this summer, but still holding out some hope my October trip to a conference in Torino will be possible. Mannaggia! Stay safe, Cristina
April 30, 2020 @ 4:37 am
Thanks, Cristina. Don’t get your hopes up for October. I don’t know if Italy will allow any international travel this year and I doubt the U.S. will allow any travelers returning from Italy. I think we’ll be toxic for a while. The good thing is the city will be void of tourists when it opens. Bad for business but we locals hope to make up for the slack. I’m read to spend money in every restaurant in town.
April 29, 2020 @ 1:10 pm
Excellent post! Love the ‘pet names’ too.. maybe a book titled: “The little book of pet names for the Orange Buffoon” would sell well..?
My wife bought the “The Bush Dyslexicon” back in the day when George W Bush was in power.. looking back, he now seem like a pretty decent and good guy.. haha what times we live in..
April 30, 2020 @ 4:39 am
Thanks, Jens. I still say the Iraqi War was worse than anything Trump has done but collectively, Trump’s body of work is arguably the worst in history. And if you think he’s unhinged now, wait’ll you see what he does after he’s re-elected and he doesn’t have to worry about his ratings. Mamma mia!
April 29, 2020 @ 1:41 pm
Nice article, but I would not call the 5 star movement a right wing party, because it simply isn’t. It’s a people movement with progressive views and a green agenda! I would actually correct that in your article. Conte has proven to be a great leader of this mistreated country from decades of unfitted and incompetent ruling!
April 30, 2020 @ 2:39 am
You’re right. I corrected it.
April 29, 2020 @ 4:31 pm
This would have been an excellent article if it wasn’t filled with so much political hate. I would have shared it with my friends on social media had it not strayed from being a fair, sensible and reasonable account of events to being an editorial pushing a vitriolic, demeaning, cynical personal agenda. Why can’t this world embrace more objectivity and less maleficent prejudice? So sad.
April 29, 2020 @ 11:50 pm
Marco, I really enjoy Johns writings but I have to agree with you on this one.
April 30, 2020 @ 12:36 am
Marco, If you were living here in the US with this despicable, sociopath “leading” our nation you wouldn’t have been as kind as the descriptions in this article. He cares not one bit about us – only about his re-election and making more $. People are not only dying here in large numbers, but financially so many are being destroyed, being forced to work in meat plants to keep the food chain open without protections, and told if they refuse to go to work they will lose all their benefits. I fear greatly for my country. I am also so proud of Italy in its handling of this crisis. Our family in Italy feels that way too. Trump is on his way to destroying America.
April 30, 2020 @ 4:50 am
Thanks for the support, Lisa. I appreciate it. Do you live in Italy or the U.S?
April 30, 2020 @ 4:43 am
Thanks for your comments, Marco. Yes, the blog is filled with hate. That’s because I’m filled with hate. The only people I hate more than Trump are the people who support him. You must remember a blog isn’t supposed to be objective. It’s pure opinion. And the definition of truth is being true to your beliefs. My beliefs are that Trump is a terrible president, a worse human being and the anger that has built up over three years exploded into this blog. I needed to vent. Also, this blog was a comparison between Conte and Trump. To show how good Conte is I must show how bad Trump is. The nicknames went too far? Maybe. But I enjoy them. So do others. Also, I didn’t want to show any respect for the man by actually calling him by his name.
May 14, 2020 @ 12:31 pm
I am actually sad to hear that (you are filled with hate for those that support Trump). There are those that don’t care for Trump but don’t see an alternative. As a devout Catholic, I can no longer support the Democrats (though I did for many, many years). I simply have no other choice anymore. And, my own children have returned to the U.S. after working overseas for many years – why? Because the tax changes that were made under the Trump administration made it financially feasible for small businesses to return. Am I happy that Trump had to be the one to finally do something beneficial to small business? Or talk about infrastructure? Or do prison reform? Absolutely not. But, the Democrats dropped the ball and Trump, for all his many faults, is doing things that should have been done. He is actually DOING SOMETHING. And that is what Americans see. And they see him doing it with the entire force of Hollywood, most of the media, and many in government against him. I was so against him in for so long (and still am on environmental issues) but once I accepted that he is always going to be a narcissist and he fights like a kid on a Brooklyn playground – then I started to look at policies and not personalities. News organizations I trusted and respected have been caught too many times with partisan agendas. Guess the bottom line is I don’t hate anyone – and I pray for every political administration to be successful for America and for our political leaders to put Americans’ interest over selfishness. I am incredibly sad that we are at this point in the States that we have do not have valid choices in many of our political races.. the two parties in power no longer speak to or for me. Rome is my favorite city and it is so tempting to retire there and get away from this depressing and divisive political atmosphere. I do enjoy your blog as a break from it all. La dolce vita! And best of health.
April 29, 2020 @ 5:41 pm
Great article; Conte’s effective leadership and Trump’s complete lack thereof, strikingly displayed.
April 30, 2020 @ 4:49 am
Thanks, Mike. Did you work in Kent, Wash., with me?
April 30, 2020 @ 3:38 pm
No, I have always lived in the Midwest. I enjoy reading all of your writing, travel and otherwise. Keep up the good work.
April 29, 2020 @ 7:15 pm
April 29, 2020 @ 7:15 pm
So I have been reading for a while and never commented – but I have to tell you I have loved the blog – but have most appreciated it now. Most of us in the United States are wondering if we will get back to Europe soon – The perspective you add is so appreciated…..
and your political commentary is spot
on (sadly for us in the United States).
April 30, 2020 @ 4:44 am
Thanks, Kate. I appreciate the nice compliments. I am filled with hate and I can’t imagine how bad I’d feel if I was actually living in the U.S. and meeting Trump supporters. I’d be in jail or dead from gunshot wounds.
April 30, 2020 @ 2:56 am
Good article, although it strayed a bit from normal journalistic rigour (perhaps oped category?). Conte has been a light and a leader in a very dark and unknown era. He has done a good job, including in his successful advocacy for greater support from Brussels. Let’s hope he can continue the success by re-launching the Italian economy. Imagining any of the alternative Italian political leaders doing as good a job brings only nightmares. Meanwhile, we can only hope that in Usa, Mr von Clownstick receives his deserved defeat in November.
April 30, 2020 @ 4:48 am
Thanks, Jeff. Very nice comments. Even if you consider past Italian leaders, this crisis would be worse than it is now. I can’t imagine what Silvio Berlusconi would’ve done. Still, he would do better than von Clownstick has. Unfortunately, I have little optimism about November. I know he only has 43 percent, shockingly low for a president during a crisis, but he had less than that before the 2016 election. We know how that turned out. I just hope the Democrats and disenchanted Republicans in those swing states get out to vote. I’m wondering why Trump is even running for reelection. What doesn’t he just quit, go to the golf course and say he did it.
April 30, 2020 @ 7:19 am
I just unsubscribed!!!! All of you snowflakes will melt ! Liberalism is a mental disease !
April 30, 2020 @ 7:37 am
It’s easy running a country with only 60 million people in it. And by the way half of whom are live at home mamma’s boys ! Try governing over 350 million with illegals swarming in every day. Thank God we have trump ! Why do you think the Roman fell to barbarians ? Oh I forgot you don’t think !
April 30, 2020 @ 8:08 am
So much fun watching liberals” heads explode !! Who needs Saturday night live when we have all of you to laugh at !! By the way we travel to Roma twice every year and have been there 30 times ! Love AS Roma Huge supporters may buy an apartment there. We have many friends who live there
May 1, 2020 @ 4:33 pm
Illegals? I didn’t see illegals or blacks or gays or liberals producing 434 mass shootings in 2019. Donald Trump is destroying democracy just like a communist dictator and has all the empathy for the suffering as one, too. It’s amazing how much you rednecks wrap yourself in the flag yet act like Stalinists.
May 1, 2020 @ 9:21 pm
Wow – Paul was pretty fired up. From his “I just unsubscribed!” to his last post he was churning on it for nearly 50 minutes. Perhaps trying to think of something clever. That’s a lot of brain power on his part and free brain space occupied by you. To come back to comment 3 times – it would be funny if not so pathetic.
May 3, 2020 @ 5:52 pm
Stay home with your gun, douchebag! Actually no, go out in a crowd without a mask, so that Darwin can take care of you. Trump is sinking our country! We used to be a world leader and now we are an also ran no one will listen to. Just pay attention to how many countries will follow us when we try to have new sanctions against Iran and China. Pay close attention. Read this article for instruction. Spot on … https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/05/time-americans-are-doing-nothing/611056/
May 3, 2020 @ 6:02 pm
Hey Paul Capaccio! You like to see liberal heads explode? You right wing extremists (you can’t be even be considered worthy republicans) remind me of Titanic passengers trying to get the best seats on the ship! Your ignorance and incompetence, your illiteracy, your devotion to Fox News and your blind following whatever the orange buffoon says are the new definition of ugly American. Follow what your leader says and drink some Clorox.
May 3, 2020 @ 6:15 pm
Paul Capaccio! You thought I was done with you? I’m not! You’re even a fan of AS Roma, the eternal losers from the eternal city! Next time you’re in Rome I’ll make sure you’re taken care of by a nice group of Lazio fans. You know, they are as right wing as you are, maybe even more, but when they hear you are for AS Roma … well, I don’t want to spoil the surprise. Do everyone a favor. Don’t buy an apartment in Rome. Stay as far away fro Italy as you can. Italy has its share of stupid people and we don’t need one more, even if you are stupider than your peers. As the orange fucktard would say: “I am more stupid than anyone else. I am the most stupid person in the world. I am perfectly stupid. Everyone knows I am the best stupid person ever …”
Pascale Lora Schyns
April 30, 2020 @ 8:41 am
Thank you and congratulations, John, for such a great paper.
Very helpful to understand what is going on, in Italy and elder.
I wish I live in Italy.
Please keep informing us.
April 30, 2020 @ 9:41 am
“Decomposing Jack O’Lantern” !!!!
John, you ROCK.
Fantastic job coming up with all those names for Fuckface von Clownstick!
And for the article itself. I agree, I have felt calmed by Conte at each of his video announcements throughout this challenging lockdown here in Italy. I have felt that he’s transparent and empathetic and has a capable, thoughtful, measured way of dealing with it.
May 1, 2020 @ 4:34 pm
Thanks, Chandi. After Trump, I think we all need a little understanding and at least have a leader who acts like he cares. Trump doesn’t give a shit about anything in life except himself.
April 30, 2020 @ 12:46 pm
Thank you… great article! I get comic relief reading your humor about a terrifying situation I am living in here in the US. SO sad.
May 1, 2020 @ 1:50 pm
Ciao Teri, fun to see you here. I wonder if you arrived at John’s site because of my posting of some of his posts on my FB page?
April 30, 2020 @ 12:52 pm
Explain with facts who would’ve been a better choice than the present US President to hold that office. Extol their qualities while you’re at it.
May 1, 2020 @ 4:42 pm
Who would be a better president? How about a begonia? A begonia wouldn’t have cut taxes for the rich and cut public services for the poor, including single mothers. It wouldn’t have pulled out of the Paris Accord and eased restrictions on industries. It wouldn’t have said there are good people on the Alt Right. It wouldn’t have played golf more than 260 times since taking office. But where this Cheeto-faced cumsickle (Like that name? That’s my favorite!) doesn’t take a back seat is the begonia would’ve done the same as Trump during the pandemic: sit in its pot for a month and not do a damn thing. So be proud. You support a president who’s less effective than a potted plant.
June 12, 2020 @ 5:14 pm
Polarisation is extreme. Some respect always please. Deficits & Debts USA, who is going pay?