The Ides of March Lurk for Italy’s Giorgia Meloni
And an Italian version of AOC emerges on Italy’s left.
Prime Minister Meloni’s honeymoon period as prime minister has drawn to a close. Though hailed as more pragmatic and competent than many of her critics had believed, Italy’s premier has of late encountered unexpected headwinds. Some have been meteorological; others are political.
Ever since a soothsayer admonished Julius Caesar centuries ago, leaders the world over have been warned to beware the Ides of March. It appears that the Ides have come but not gone for the president of the Council of Ministers in Rome.
After a boat carrying illegal migrants across the Mediterranean was wrecked on the coast of Steccato di Cutro, a seaside resort village — leading to the loss of nearly 80 men, women, and children — the naysayers have come to bury Ms. Meloni.
The nature of this character assassination was a blanket condemnation of the administration’s actions during the harsh storm that shattered the vessel. In addition to accusing Ms. Meloni of insensitivity regarding the loss of life, opposition leaders implied that the government deliberately failed to act with sufficient speed.
On February 26, a decrepit fishing vessel originating in Turkey, whence it was ferrying 200 people, from Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan, and Syria — disintegrated in rough seas. The center-left and press outlets in Italy wasted no time in castigating the conservatives’ policy of curtailing illegal migration.
These critics faulted Meloni & Co. for failing to intercept the boat before it made landfall. An official investigation has been initiated by prosecutors at Crotone.
Prime Minister Meloni, who was in the midst of state visits to India and the United Arab Emirates when the tragedy occurred, said that “Our authorities did not get any emergency communication from Frontex.” Frontex is the EU’s coastal patrol agency.
“We’re talking about a boat that navigated for three days and … never had a problem,” Ms. Meloni declared. “It arrived in front of the Italian coast, 40 meters away. There wasn’t and there couldn’t have been any sign of a possible shipwreck.”
She reiterated this contention in an unprecedented meeting of her council of ministers held at Cutro, as opposed to Rome. In the lengthy press conference that followed, Ms. Meloni and her ministers fielded questions about the shipwreck.
Seeking to end human trafficking across the Mediterranean, the premier vowed to “combat the slavery” of what she called “the Third Millennium” with a decree wherein smugglers whose actions lead to the death of migrants would be sentenced to a 30-year incarceration.
Such a steely response to human trafficking, though, was viewed as insufficiently respectful of those who perished off the Italian coast, according to the commentariat.
The new secretary of the center-left Partito Democratico, Elly Schlein, called Ms. Meloni cabinet’s inability to pay its respects to the dead on the beach of Cutro “inhumane.” Unfortunately, such a perception was given traction by an ill-timed 50th birthday celebration for deputy prime minister Matteo Salvini held near Lago di Como not long after the cabinet meeting.
Still, one could argue that Ms. Schlein’s journey to the shoreline of Cutro was nothing more than an odyssey of virtue signaling — and an attempt to raise her growing political profile. In that respect, she may have been emulating New York’s Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
Numerous press reports have noted the affinities between the two liberals. A transatlantic sisterhood comprising AOC and Ms. Schlein would be an ideological axis aimed at overturning traditional cultures, values, and, yes, borders.
The New York Times Rome bureau chief, Jason Horowitz, devoted a recent Saturday profile to Ms. Schlein, a woman he believes will transform Italy’s center-left Democratic Party into an electoral force capable of defeating Ms. Meloni’s conservative coalition at the polls.
Prime Minister Meloni, to her credit, reached out to congratulate Ms. Schlein on attaining the leadership of the Partito Democratico. Though Ms. Schlein, who holds Swiss, American, and Italian passports, accepted the premier’s call, she later characterized Ms. Meloni as an incompletely antifascist troglodyte with a migrant policy that is “inhuman” and “illegal.”
And to further contrast herself vis-à-vis Ms. Meloni, Ms. Schlein issued a radical leftist cri de coeur, telling Mr. Horowitz: “I am a woman. I love another woman. I am not a mother, but I am not less a woman for this.” Helen Reddy is no doubt caterwauling in her grave.
Rosario A. Iaconis is an author and educator who embraces Giuseppe Verdi’s dictum: “You may have the universe if I may have Italy.” He serves as Chairman of the Italic Institute of America.