If Donald Trump has a political equivalent anywhere, it's Sylvio Berlusconi. There are striking similarities, as well as a few qualitative differences.
Both men are rich, though Berlusconi's reported 8.0 billion dollar net worth seems a bit more credible than $8.7 billion that Trump has laid claim to. (In 1987, when Forbes started its list of the 400 richest Americans, many on the list, not wanting the publicity, contacted Forbes to let them know that the magazine had grossly overstated their net worths. Only one person contacted Forbes to say that they had understated his: Donald Trump.)
Both men have varied financial interests. Berlusconi made a small fortune in real estate, then got real rich by buying various media properties. Trump got rich through real estate. He has also controlled an airline, a casino, and two beauty pageants, though has never owned any media.
Neither man is apologetic about appreciating beautiful women. (Trump is also unapologetic for criticizing women's looks.)
Berlusconi didn't even draw the line at prostitutes. It's probably safe to assume that Trump's germaphobia (he has a well known aversion to shaking hands) would have precluded too much promiscuity, and it's highly doubtful that he ever consorted with prostitutes. (It's not hard to imagine him exercising a certain droit de seigneur with some of those Miss Universe contestants, though.)
Both men like living large, although you get the sense that Berlusconi actually enjoys himself more: he has a more ebullient cast to his personality. Berlusconi loved to throw parties on his yacht, and would regale his guests with amusing stories and funny jokes. You get the sense that Berlusconi -- a former singer on cruise ships -- was skillful at making others feel good about themselves.
Trump seems to lack that ability. Trump's driving need for validation means that all of the compliments in a room must flow in his direction, which must get tiresome for those around him. You get the sense that in his business life he surrounds himself with yes men; no other kind would be tolerated for long.
Berlusconi definitely would have been more fun to hang out with. As I wrote in the above-linked post:
When Berlusconi held a joint press conference with Danish leader Anders Rasmussen in 2003, he declared, "Rasmussen is the most handsome Prime Minister in Europe. I'm thinking of introducing him to my wife because he's much more handsome than Cacciari." (At the time, Berlusconi's wife was rumored to be having an affair with leftist philosophy professor Massimo Cacciari.)
But Berlusconi was also corrupt, all too willing to skirt the law should it prove convenient; and he was long rumored to be in bed with the Cosa Nostra (a rumor later proven true). Trump at least hasn't shown any overt evidence of outright corruption (despite his not infrequent use of bankruptcy law). It beggars the imagination to think that a New York real estate tycoon has somehow miraculously remained "pure," but at least there is no evidence of corruption.
After Trump's statement about illegal immigrants, his political opponents searched hard for illegal aliens working for the various Trump businesses, but they were unable to turn up a single one.
Neither Berlusconi nor Trump is an ideologue; being in business seems to have made both practical, willing to take positions from both Column A and Column B. (Trump has previously supported abortion rights and advocated a one payor national health care system as well as higher taxes on the rich.)
Trump may not have Berlusconi's charm, but at the moment, he is what America needs. Despite being the richest Republican running, he's the only one advocating policies which would actually benefit the middle class. Yesterday's comments about CEO's who stack their boards with pals who rubber stamp their ridiculous compensation packages were typical.
Even the Democratic candidates aren't talking about the corrupting influence of money on politics, or the outrageousness way the hedge funders only get their earnings taxed at the long term capital gains rate. They don't want to jeopardize their campaign contributions by doing so. A loud, brash, rich guy like Trump won't be silenced by the need for campaign contributions.
Trump's voice -- and the ego which accompanies it -- may suck all the oxygen out of a room, but that's actually a small price to pay for setting things right.
We can save the Berlusconi charm for another time.