Berlusconi is such a clown that it's sometimes hard to take him seriously. But he's a man of great power in Italy, and so his pronouncements on women and himself do matter.
And what pronouncements those are!
Premier Silvio Berlusconi brushed off questions about any possible resignation over his sex scandal, saying Thursday that he has been Italy's best premier ever.
Berlusconi also said he was considering suing the woman at the center of the scandal. Patrizia D'Addario, a self-proclaimed prostitute, claims she tape-recorded Berlusconi during a night she says they spent together at the premier's home last year.
The left-leaning newsweekly L'Espresso obtained copies of the tapes, including one in which a man it identified as Berlusconi is heard telling D'Addario to wait for him on the big bed while he showers.
Berlusconi said Thursday he was considering taking legal action. He said he had been the "victim of an attack by a person who wanted to create a scandal" — an apparent reference to D'Addario.
Berlusconi repeated his insistence that he "didn't pay a lira, a euro, for a sexual favor" and never had.
He spoke at a news conference with Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero after an Italian-Spanish summit on Sardinia.
"I say this also because, for those who love to conquer, the joy and the most beautiful satisfaction is in the conquest," Berlusconi said, as an expressionless Zapatero looked on. "If you have to pay, I ask you, what joy is there?"
Here we get that "sexual conquest" idea again. Berlusconi is the invading army! Berlusconi is the huntsman with the quiver and the bow! And he wins! The prey is caught, the enemy surrenders, all voluntarily. And how sweet it it.
Now, to pay for all that would be like having someone scare the pheasants into the air before rich tourists take pot-shots at them, right? Well, it would perhaps be more like availing oneself of the services of well-trained geishas:
The scandal broke last spring, when the 72-year-old premier's wife, Veronica Lario, said she was divorcing him, citing his presence at the 18th birthday party of Naples model Noemi Letizia and his party's lineup of TV starlets as candidates for European Parliament elections.
Berlusconi said Thursday that three candidates who attended a course his party offered had all been well-educated, multilingual, sophisticated women who were doing a fine job representing Italy in Europe.
After Lario's accusations, several young women including D'Addario went public with stories that they were paid to attend parties at Berlusconi's homes by a Berlusconi acquaintance, Gianpaolo Tarantini.
Tarantini has apologized for creating a scandal for the premier. He says he reimbursed the women for travel and other expenses but that Berlusconi never knew about it.
The premier on Thursday confirmed that he had been at a few functions with Tarantini, but he stressed that the "beautiful women" Tarantini brought along were his own friends, not Berlusconi's.
That's my take on Berlusconi's defenses. He still doesn't see women as people, and he thinks that viewing them as prey in the hunt of love or as well-trained geishas is a compliment.