Image

Mark Steyn

Ave atque vale

A Monster and his Suck-Ups

Who knows when Fidel Castro actually kicked the bucket? But this weekend his brother decided to let us in on the secret. His presidential term lasted, gosh, an awfully long time, as The New York Times reminded us:

Fidel Castro had held on to power longer than any other living national leader except Queen Elizabeth II.

That's one way of putting it. But in the end, when it comes to ruthlessly holding on to power, no one can compete with Her Majesty, and so that piker Castro got relegated to second place, while millions of English, Canadians, Jamaicans, Bahamians, Barbadians, Grenadians, etc, still groan under the jackboot of the Queen.

Elsewhere in the US media, The Nation offered a more local comparison:

Castro almost outlasted 11 US presidents—Eisenhower, Kennedy, LBJ, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush I, Clinton, Bush II, and passing in the waning days of Obama's last term. Perhaps he just couldn't bear the thought of President Donald Trump.

Impressive. How exactly did he manage to outlast all those here-today-gone-tomorrow US presidents? As I wrote in Maclean's eight years ago:

"Saying he is no longer healthy enough to hold office, Cuban leader Fidel Castro has announced he will not seek re-election after 49 years in power" — the Miami Herald.

Hmm. Castro didn't really have to "seek" re-election, did he? He's a — what's the word? Oh, yeah — "dictator." If he "seeks" re-election, he's pretty much guaranteed to find it — assuming for the purposes of argument you can be "re-elected" if you've never been freely or fairly elected in the first place. In its own "news report," the satirical website The Nose on Your Face got closer to reality:

"Fidel Castro announced today that he would not seek a new term as Cuba's president, citing concerns that at 81, it may be difficult for him to serve the full, constitutionally-mandated 49-year term."

Yeah, yeah, but who are you to preach? Back to The Nation:

Having been sanctimoniously lectured by all 11 US presidents on what constitutes proper democratic procedure, he might have thought Trump, about to take office with a minority of the vote and with significant voter suppression, a vindication.

Get back to us when Trump's first term lasts 49 years. As for that eleventh US president, Barack Obama declared:

At this time of Fidel Castro's passing, we extend a hand of friendship to the Cuban people. We know that this moment fills Cubans - in Cuba and in the United States - with powerful emotions, recalling the countless ways in which Fidel Castro altered the course of individual lives...

Indeed. He "altered the course of individual lives" by ending them. Of those he didn't end, 20 per cent of the population fled the country. Some made it to Miami, others had the course of their lives altered by winding up in a watery grave. Among the many "individual lives" he "altered" was Mercedes Fernandez's, who before taking up residence in Castro's prison had never before had to "defecate parasites six centimeters long". As the Swedish author Johan Norberg remarked:

When I die, I want to die peacefully in my sleep, like Fidel Castro, not screaming in terror, like his victims.

That's a savage variation of the old gag: I want to die like my dad - peacefully in my sleep, not screaming in terror, like his bus passengers. And it's entirely appropriate, even if Mr Norberg's Twitter followers don't care for the cut of his jib. On the other hand, Britain's Leader of the Opposition, Jeremy Corbyn, offered a more nuanced judgment:

For all his flaws... he will be remembered both as an internationalist and a champion of social justice.

To those of us old-fashioned enough to prefer simple, unadorned "justice" to "social justice", the latter's modish and capricious priorities inevitably set you on the path to tyranny, mass incarceration, and blood on the floor. So I have no particular quarrel with Mr Corbyn's assessment. But I wonder what particular strand of "social justice" he thinks Castro "championed"? Gay rights?

Fidel Castro denounced homosexuality as "a bourgeois perversion."

It's fine for the louche salons of British socialists, but don't try it in Havana, where "under Article 303a of the country's Penal Code, 'publicly manifested' homosexuality remains illegal".

Justin Trudeau enjoys "publicly manifested homosexuality" so much he's the first Prime Minister of Canada to march in the annual LGBTQWERTY parade. If he were minded to "publicly manifest" his enthusiasm in Cuba, he'd be arrested: "Social justice" isn't quite as sociable there as it is in Toronto. But don't let a little thing like that get in the way of some A-grade dictatorial crawling...

It is with deep sorrow that I learned today of the death of Cuba's longest serving President.

Fidel Castro was a larger than life leader who served his people for almost half a century. A legendary revolutionary and orator, Mr. Castro made significant improvements to the education and healthcare of his island nation.

While a controversial figure, both Mr. Castro's supporters and detractors recognized his tremendous dedication and love for the Cuban people who had a deep and lasting affection for "el Comandante".

I don't know about that, but Justin's pa certainly had a deep and lasting affection for chaps who style themselves "el Comandante". When Pierre Trudeau resigned as Prime Minister in 1984, he took Justin and his siblings on a vacation to Siberia because "that's where the future is being made". The Siberian future went belly up within a decade, but its Caribbean subsidiary somehow clung on:

I know my father was very proud to call him a friend and I had the opportunity to meet Fidel when my father passed away.

That's because Castro was one of just three "world leaders" who showed up for Pierre Trudeau's obsequies. As I wrote way back when:

But there beats in the liberal breast a strange passion for normalizing dictatorships. You'll recall that, at the funeral of Pierre Trudeau, the Father of Our Country, the only fellow global colossi to show up were Fidel Castro, Jimmy Carter and Najib Zerouali (Minister of Scientific Research for Morocco, a nation renowned for its scientific research). This would have been a bleak enough comment on Trudeaupia's standing in the world, even without the general media swoon over Fidel. Apparently, millions of freeborn citizens of one of the oldest constitutional democracies on the planet were flattered by the attentions of the grubby strongman from an economic basket case representing the last redoubt of history's most blood-soaked and comprehensively failed ideology.

But cut poor old Trudeau fils some slack. Fidel might have been a bit uptight and stand-offish when Justin took him for a tour of Montreal's village gai, but the guy did show up for the funeral. Jean-Claude Juncker can claim no such personal connection. Who's M Juncker? He's the alleged "President" of "Europe". Whether or not Castro was a real president, Cuba is at least a real country. In that sense, M Juncker is doubly disadvantaged. But as one "president" to another he was anxious to show solidarity:

With the death of #FidelCastro, the world has lost a man who was a hero for many.

He was certainly a hero to "President" Juncker, who feels the same way about Brexit and other EU referenda that Castro felt about elections. As I wrote back in 2008:

Of course, the realities of politics are such that the representative of a genuine democracy will at some point or other find himself sitting across the table from this week's president-for-life or generalissimo. But you hope your chap, even while high on the transnational cocktail circuit, will know the difference... When a free man enjoying the blessings of a free society promotes an equivalence between real democracy and a sham, he's colluding in the great lie being perpetrated by the prison state. A generation ago, to their shame, almost every Western politician did it — Trudeau, Mitterrand, Carter, Helmut Schmidt. Today, the political class is more circumspect, but the broader culture, almost instinctively, drapes thugs in the accessories of legitimacy...

Pondering Western enthusiasm for Castro and Co., you wonder whether the free world's urge to normalize tyranny is entirely confined to its exotic overseas exemplars. If you believe in big problems that demand "big government" solutions, democracy just gets in the way. Take Mayer Hillman, senior fellow at the Policy Studies Institute in London and big-shot eco-panjandrum. "When the chips are down I think democracy is a less important goal than is the protection of the planet from the death of life, the end of life on it," he said recently. "This has got to be imposed on people whether they like it or not."

Was Fidel sound on climate change? Or was he as iffy about that as he was with all those bourgeois sodomites? No matter:

Democracy, said Churchill, was the worst form of government except for all the others. It is, in fact, the best form of government for small government — for a rotating political class constrained by a sense of what is achievable in free societies. But, if your plans are bigger than that, then you need a freer hand. The totalitarian temptation lurks within every big idea, even the fluffily benign-sounding ones, and it will only grow in the years ahead.

And so, as evidenced by this weekend's droologies, it has. "Holding on to power" longer than anyone but the Queen, Castro even more impressively held the affections of the drawing rooms of the western left. As the headline of my Maclean's column summarized it:

Love With The Perfect Dictator

And love means never having to say you're sorry, no matter how many individual lives he "alters".

~Today, Monday, I'll be checking in with the great Stuart Varney, live on Fox Business, at 11.30am Eastern/8.30am Pacific. If you're in the presence of the receiving apparatus, I hope you'll dial us up.

~Our Ave atque vale eulogies department will be branching out into a novel television format as part of my new nightly TV extravaganza, The Mark Steyn Show, which starts a week from today - Monday December 5th. You can find out more about The Mark Steyn Show here.

from Ave atque vale, November 28, 2016

 

Times to be Happy, Times to Get Through

Mark and Tim Rice on the late Bobby Vee

Continue Reading

Happy Easter from the Religion of Peace

The price of being a moderate Muslim

Continue Reading

A Principled Man in a Corrupted Field

I was very saddened to hear of the death of Professor Robert M Carter, one of my co-authors on Climate Change: The Facts. Bob had a heart attack at his home in Queensland and never recovered consciousness. He was an indispensable voice in the battle for climate sanity...

Continue Reading

Bumpers and Grinders

Ol' Dale pulls it out for Slick Willie

Continue Reading

Keeping the British End Up

Confessions of a window cleaner - and a double-O secret agent...

Continue Reading

The Riches in Rags

E L Doctorow at the dawn of the American century

Continue Reading

Flower Power

Remembering Theodore Bikel, who introduced the last song Rodgers & Hammerstein ever wrote

Continue Reading

Man of Letter

Mark remembers Wayne Carson, who gave us "Always On My Mind" and "The Letter"

Continue Reading

Brollies and Dollies

Hard to imagine at the start of yet another dreary summer of superheroes at the multiplex, but once upon a time "The Avengers" didn't mean lurid musclebound rubber-nippled Ăśbermenschen battling malevolent Norse gods across a hole in the time-space continuum over the streets of Manhattan, but an urbane middle-aged toff and a catsuited Carnaby Street dolly bird bantering their way across Swingin' London. That other "Avengers" was a big hit in the US. It was, indeed, the last British telly show to ...

Continue Reading

He Stayethed.

Mark remembers Stan Cornyn, master of the lost art of liner notes

Continue Reading

Rush's Right-Hand Man

Mark remembers the great Kit "HR" Carson

Continue Reading

A QC in the Windy City

Eddie Greenspan, QC died in his sleep last week at his winter pad in Arizona. He was only 70, although he seemed older to me. Canada's most celebrated criminal lawyer, he had made his name very young, and kept it until the end. I didn't know him well, and, indeed, on the last occasion I saw him (or, to be more precise, he saw me), in the lobby of the King Edward Hotel in Toronto, he cut me dead. (I was talking with someone, and didn't actually notice, but so it was reported to me afterwards.) ...

Continue Reading

He Would, Wouldn't He?

Farewell to the great survivor of Britain's Profumo scandal.

Continue Reading

Chicken Supremo

The longest-serving mayor in Boston's history was no friend of free speech

Continue Reading

Palace Intrigue

One of the odder episodes recounted in my new book The [Un]documented Mark Steyn is my dinner at Buckingham Palace on the eve of the referendum on the Australian monarchy. A man whose political fortunes helped shape the republican movement died today at the age of 98. Gough Whitlam was a controversial Aussie Prime Minister who was even more controversially transformed into an ex-Prime Minister...

Continue Reading

Beam Him Up!

The improbably coiffed James Traficant, former congressman and jailbird, died at the weekend. He rated a mention from me in the course of my disquisition on "Beam me up, Scotty!" in Mark Steyn's Passing Parade...

Continue Reading

Chemistry Lessons

James Garner was one of those actors who was watchable in almost anything, even commercials. He had great sexual chemistry, which is why his leading ladies loved working with him...

Continue Reading

When the Bongos Fall Silent...

Mark remembers Broadway's archetypal tough old broad, and a characteristic encounter...

Continue Reading

Brill Cream

Mark remembers Gerry Goffin and the pop hits of New York's Brill Building

Continue Reading

Barn Stormer

Mickey Rooney died last Sunday at the age of 93, and I didn't want the SteynOnline week to end without a word about him. Aside from anything else, and as ridiculous as it sounds, we share a musical director...

Continue Reading

For Valour

Australia honours its 100th Victoria Cross recipient

Continue Reading

A Coconut War Without Shells

Cockatoo-plumed colonial memories from the South Pacific

Continue Reading

Slipper of the Yard

Great Train Robber Ronnie Biggs - and his nemesis...

Continue Reading

Peter O'Toole, RIP

Birther of Arabia?

Continue Reading

Canada's Chief Censor

Mark remembers Jennifer Lynch, Chief Commissar during his battles with the Dominion's thought police

Continue Reading

Don Wade, RIP

Remembering a legendary Chicago morning man

Continue Reading

The Anti-Declinist

Margaret Thatcher, 1925-2013

Continue Reading

Doug Christie, 1946-2013

Ezra Levant remembers an all too rare Canadian free-speech lawyer

Related: Bernie and the Bully Bloggers

Continue Reading

You see this guy?

Mark presents Part Two of his salute to Hal David, lyricist of "This Guy's In Love With You", "I'll Never Fall In Love Again", "Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head" and many more, who died on Saturday at the age of 91

You can read Part One here

Continue Reading

The Look of Love is saying so much more...

Mark remembers Hal David, lyricist of "Alfie", "I Say A Little Prayer", "To All The Girls I've Loved Before", "Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head", "Twenty-Fours From Tulsa" and many more, who died on Saturday at the age of 91

Continue Reading

Pajama Nights on Broadway

A SteynOnline audio special to mark the 60th birthday of The Pajama Game

Continue Reading

Hilton and Lana

Remembering a great critic, editor, and the man who gave Mark his first regular job in American media

Continue Reading

Hitchens Observed

From our friend John O'Sullivan: Sometime in the early 1970s, Frank Johnson, later editor of the British Spectator but then a young parliamentary correspondent, came into my room at the Daily Telegraph and began waxing enthusiastic about a newcomer to Fleet Street, one Christopher Hitchens, with whom he had dined the previous night...

Continue Reading

Tony Blankley RIP

Tony's death is a particular shock to those of us who enjoyed his company on the NR cruise just a few weeks ago. He was his usual convivial self, and fully engaged in the 2012 campaign season.

Continue Reading

THE DONG IS ENDED, BUT THE MALADY LINGERS ON

Kim Jong-Il, 1942-2011

Continue Reading

MONKEYING AROUND

Bert Schneider, 1933-2011: 'Nam, coke, and the Golden Age of Oscars

Continue Reading

END OF THE RHODE

Roger Williams, 1924-2011

Continue Reading

Follow Mark

Facebook  Twitter  YouTube  Join Mailing List

Search SteynOnline.com

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

© 2016 Mark Steyn Enterprises (US) Inc. All rights reserved.
No part of this website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied, modified or adapted, without the prior written consent of Mark Steyn Enterprises.