Coming Soon to the U.S. Senate!

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Actually, I'm not sure what this law would change on this side of the ocean, given the precedents of Clinton v. Jones. But it's monstrous for Italy:

Italy's lower house of parliament has passed a bill that will grant immunity to Premier Silvio Berlusconi, who has had his share of run-ins with the law over corruption allegations in connection with his media empire… The bill gives legal immunity from prosecution to the president, prime minister and the speakers of the two chambers of parliament while in office, and is now expected to become law in record time when it advances to the Senate in late July.

Judges and much of Italy's left-wing opposition opposed the law, which will suspend any statute of limitations to a case until the defendant leaves office.

Italy, of all places, is a bizzare home for this kind of law. Until Berlusconi it was odd for a prime minister to last more than a year in office, but the country's frequent governing spasms didn't prevent it from growing wealthier and more prosperous at basically the rate you would have expected it to.

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  1. I believe France already has this.

  2. How the hell did he ram this through?

  3. Italy would be even richer if they’d get rid of those damn gypsies.

  4. Thinner . . . .

    *points a crooked finger at Josh*

  5. I don’t see why a similar bill shouldn’t pass in the US. If the state is going to grant its buddies in the telecom industry immunity from abetting acknowledged wrongdoing, why not extend that immunity to the people doing wrong in the first place?

  6. Well . . . at least he’s not wiretapping all his political enemies . . . and friends.

  7. Suddenly I’m glad I’m part of the Italian diaspora.

  8. I don’t see why a similar bill shouldn’t pass in the US.

    Hah, I’d like to see them try. Congress’ approval has already fallen to single digits; let’s see if it can go below zero.

  9. Congress’ approval has already fallen to single digits; let’s see if it can go below zero.

    I’m sure that if they bend over backwards for Bush just a tiny bit more they can send their aproval rating into the complex plane.

  10. It was an Indian in Thinner.

  11. Hah, I’d like to see them try. Congress’ approval has already fallen to single digits; let’s see if it can go below zero.

    If their ratings get into negative territory, doesn’t that mean that people are actually shooting at them?

  12. You have to be very careful throwing office holders in jail. If one side gets control of the levers of power, what is to prevent it from just trumping up charges and jailing its opposition? The other problem is that if you make a habit out of throwing office holders in jail, it takes away their incentive to go quietly. This is what happened to the Roman Republic. Julius Caesar was actually a republican to the core. The problem was that his political opponents, the Optimates, who were anything but republicans, made it clear that as soon as he gave up his Army command he was going to be either exiled or executed. It was at this point, Caesar, with nothing to lose, said screw it and crossed the Rubicon and made himself dictator. Better to be a live dictator than a dead republican.

    I understand the concerns about not holding people to the law. But, I would rather let the occasional Nixon or Clinton off without jail than face the prospect of a President in office who has nothing to lose by staying there and only way to avoid jail is to stay in power.

  13. If their ratings get into negative territory, doesn’t that mean that people are actually shooting at them?

    I’d vote to acquit, how about you?

  14. But, I would rather let the occasional Nixon or Clinton off without jail than face the prospect of a President in office who has nothing to lose by staying there and only way to avoid jail is to stay in power.

    Yes, because the problem is that we have too many politicians doing time in prison.

  15. “Yes, because the problem is that we have too many politicians doing time in prison.”

    If you put too many of them in prison, then what do they have to lose by doing things like launching coups and killing people? It is a fine balance, we agree not to throw politicians in jail for their crimes, they agree not to lauch coups or start killing people.

  16. Regarding the prosperity thing, let me Dalrymple you again: The Uses of Corruption

    How’s that for a movie plot of the last few decades:
    “When the welfare state strikes, the clean will envy the corrupt.

  17. If you put too many of them in prison, then what do they have to lose by doing things like launching coups and killing people? It is a fine balance, we agree not to throw politicians in jail for their crimes, they agree not to lauch coups or start killing people.

    This logic applies to Charles Manson and Osama bin Laden also, right? If not, why not?

  18. they agree not to lauch coups

    Ha! How the hell could they?

    Our republic endures because the military takes very, very seriously their oath to defend the Constitution from enemies foreign and domestic.

  19. Clinton v. Jones was a civil suit, not a criminal one. Also, Clinton was head of state, not head of government. The question of whether a President can be indicted on criminal charges while in office was booted around a lot during Watergate, and Nixon never was charged, though the evidence for obstruction of justice was awfully good.

  20. If I remember my somewhat fuzzy Roman history, office holders had immunity. Ceasar’s problem was that his postconsular appointment as governor of Gaul had expired. If he’d been able to stay in office, he would have been OK. I think either way, it created an incentive for office holders to cling to power to avoid prosecution. And it’ll probably do the same thing today.

    Of course, the Roman’s habit of prosecuting nearly every public official creates some bad incentives too – although it probably felt really good.

  21. Where is this meme that Caesar was a republican and the Cato, Cicero and crew were villains coming from? I know lefties have long admired Caesar, seeing him as some kind of ancient Lenin, but lately I’ve heard this at Instapundit and now here, places I’d expect the more traditional view, that Caesar was an ambitious jackass and Cato an exemplar of virtue, to hold sway. Is it that Goldsworthy book?

  22. Did you mean: bizarre

  23. mitch, I don’t see the confusion. On the one hand:

    lefties have long admired Caesar

    while on the other:

    Caesar was an ambitious jackass

    Works for me.

  24. I hardly think Cicero should get off scott-free. Anyway, dictatorship was inevitable after Sulla and Pompey. A latter-day Cinncinatus might have slowed the transformation, but not stopped it. Rome needed a professional army loyal to the state. What it had was a political army loyal to its generals. The transition to empire would have been easier if Caesar lived – he was all for reconcilliation as long as everyone accepted his rule.

  25. Congress’ approval has already fallen to single digits; let’s see if it can go below zero.

    I’m sure that if they bend over backwards for Bush just a tiny bit more they can send their aproval rating into the complex plane.

    That is composed of (0 + 1i)% WIN.

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