Whether a joke or comment is racist or not, highly depends on who makes it. When Barack Obama tells a racist joke, journalists are laughing tears, but when Silvio Berlusconi tries to make a compliment (though as usual in his own peculiar way), they hang him in the highest tree.
When asked about the pet he was going to get his daughters when they move into the White House, Barack Obama answered on his first press conference after his election that his preference would be for a shelter dog. And added that «a lot of shelter dogs are mutts — like me.» According to unconfirmed sources, some pedigree journalist had to laugh so hard at this joke that they had to be carried out of the press room.
On the other side we have Silvio Berlusconi, and he is definitely not funny. Certainly not according to the same pedigree journalists. During a visit in Moscow, the Italian Prime Minister called Barack Obama «young, handsome and sun-tanned», a «racist remark» causing an outrage amongst Italians. Racist remark? I have no idea how Silvio Berlusconi, who is well known to care a lot for his own tan, could make a larger compliment than trying to relate the new president-elect to himself. And outrage amongst Italians? I bet most of them couldn't care less, but the media always like to pretend that the 0.1% of the Italian population that has literally nothing else to do than to try to interpret Silvio Berlusconi's remarks and comments in the worst possible way represents more than itself.
Of course, one could argue that Silvio Berlusconi could have said something else, and for once could have avoided to try to make a compliment with a joke, but my feeling is that no matter what Silvio Berlusconi could have said about Barack Obama's election, the journalists would have tried to make a racist joke out of it. If he hadn't commented or alluded to Barack Obama's race, it probably would have been racist too, just because then he wouldn't have commented it.
Silvio Berlusconi isn't right though when he says that those who didn't understand his joke are «imbeciles», because they aren't. They understand all too well what Berlusconi said, and that it isn't racist at all, but as always, any stick will do to beat the Italian dog. On the other side, Barack Obama isn't funny either, but the journalists like him, and therefore they laugh. And according to them, the rest of the world too. Even if a lot more racism can be construed in the Obama's «joke» than in Berlusconi's comment. After all, exactly what is it that Barack Obama meant when he said he preferred a shelter dog, a lot of them «mutts like him»? Doesn't he like dogs with a pedigree then, just because they aren't like him, or not enough like him? Sounds much more like racism to me, at least if that's what I want it to be. Barack Obama is lucky he isn't half a Berlusconi.