An embarrassed White House apologized on Tuesday for an "unfortunate mistake" -- the distribution of less-than-flattering biography of Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi at the Group of Eight summit. Still, the gaffe led to headlines in Italy.
The summary of Berlusconi was buried in a nearly inch-thick tome of background that the White House distributed at the summit of major economic powers. The press kit was handed out to the White House traveling press corps.
The biography described Berlusconi as one of the "most controversial leaders in the history of a country known for government corruption and vice."
It was just last month that Berlusconi welcomed Bush to Rome, calling him "a personal friend of mine and also a great friend of Italy." And Bush responded then: "You're right. We're good friends."
The biography, written by Encyclopedia of World Biography, said Berlusconi burst onto the political scene with no experience and used his "vast network of media holdings" to finance his campaign on a promise to "purge the notoriously lackadaisical Italian government of corruption."
The biography went on to say that Berlusconi was appointed to the prime minister's office in 1994, "however, he and his fellow Forza Italia Party leaders soon found themselves accused of the very corruption he had vowed to eradicate."
How did this happen? Well, if you believe it happened by accident, fine. But if you believe it was done out of malice, or a half-assed form of unintended malice in that someone had the bio and unwittingly tipped their hand by accidentally releasing something they agreed with, you're on solid ground when it comes to this White House.
The adults are not in charge. They run everything based on smearing, slamming or denigrating their opponents. A basic biography of Silvio Berlusconi issued by the White House should be simple enough to produce. If your modus operandi is to keep the nasty, partisan material OUT of your day to day operation, then something like this should have stood out and revealed itself for what it was--something that could embarrass an ally.
But if your modus operandi is to deal in sleaze and bullshit, then what's the difference between slamming Berlusconi--whose country pulled out of Iraq and whose judiciary is pursuing a legal case against some CIA operatives--and smearing him with the material that got swept into a package which should have been thoroughly vetted to avoid insulting a G-8 ally?
After seven and a half years, the White House should be a tight ship when it comes to preparing material for foreign travel. These are the final overseas trips--where is the . These mistakes happen in the fledgling days of an unsteady team. This was not a mistake--this was someone deciding on payback, Fox News style, and they might as well admit it.