Bill Clinton’s got nothing on Silvio Berlusconi, if the Italian prime minister’s estranged wife’s claims are proved true. Rumors that the 72-year-old Berlusconi had improper relations with a minor, and invited some 40 young women to his villa for a New Year’s Eve party, aren’t significant for their titillation value so much as for the threat they may pose to his position as Italy’s head of state.

The New York Times:

First came a rare and inescapable torrent of speculation — in blogs, on television and radio, at dinner tables across Italy — about the nature and origins of his relationship with Noemi Letizia, a pretty blond aspiring model whose 18th birthday party he attended in Naples last month, and who has said she calls him Daddy. This was the party that caused Mr. Berlusconi’s wife to declare their marriage, one year older than Ms. Letizia, over.

More recent are allegations, potentially more damaging, that Mr. Berlusconi, 72, invited Ms. Letizia and about 40 other girls, some like her at the time younger than 18, to spend New Year’s Eve at one of his villas in Sardinia.

Much of Mr. Berlusconi’s success has stemmed from his uncanny ability to read the national mood. Now many wonder if he has finally miscalculated it and is pushing tolerant Italians too far, and whether his late-career reputation may increasingly resemble the Roman imperial decadence of Fellini’s “Satyricon.”

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