A Dearth of Courage

PIER PAOLO CITO/AP

REBELLION: An unidentified lawmaker holds a sign reading ELECTIONS following a speech by Prime Minister Prodi

Clemente Mastella unveiled the news with all the daring and chivalry of a medieval knight. The Justice Minister's honor — and particularly that of his wife, a local politician — had been sullied, he fumed, when a magistrate near their hometown east of Naples leveled influence-peddling charges at both of them. And thus this key centrist ally of Prime Minister Romano Prodi announced that he, "with great courage," was withdrawing his party's support for the fragile majority, opening the door to a government crisis. "Che coraggio!?" an Italian might say with an apt double meaning: "What courage?" and "What gall!" Just...

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