Welcome to Part Three of Mark Steyn's Passing Parade, our new audio adaptation of what appears to be many readers' favorite Steyn book. If it's not to your taste, we have plenty of lively capers in all genres over on our Tales for Our Time home page.
Thank you for your kind words about our opening episodes. Anthony, a Massachusetts member of The Mark Steyn Club, writes:
Both of my sisters are flaming liberals. One spent thirty-odd years as a journalist working for a big NY daily (the last fifteen or so on the paper's Washington desk). She later spent some time as a syndicated columnist and, after that, writing obituaries of famous people as part of the syndication deal. She's since moved on to P.R., given the slow death of print media. She's a classic 'High School Class of '74' liberal who views Richard Nixon as the anti-Christ, Ted Kennedy as God, and Bruce Springsteen as Gabriel.
That said, she does appreciate good writing, and knowing that she actually enjoyed writing the obituaries of famous people, a few years ago for her birthday, I ordered her up a signed copy of Mark's Passing Parade. I presented it to her with a verbal warning: 'These obits largely stay away from politics, but I feel it necessary to make you aware that if there are political references here and there. you'll probably find them offensive, given the ideological differences between you and the author.' I also told her that Mark had actually met and broke bread with some of the subjects that he wrote about in the book, and he had keen insights to bring to the table.
A few months later we were chatting on the phone and she said, 'Oh, by the way, I wanted to thank you for giving me that fabulous book. I zipped through it in no time. Couldn't put it down. I love his writing style. Very wry. Very British.'
In short, if this book can win the praise of my ideologically rigid lefty sister, then it can win praise with anyone!
Very kind of your sister, Anthony. A little bit more politics this week, so for her sake I shall tread carefully...
After the Queen Mum and President Reagan last Saturday, this weekend's episode pairs a couple of the late twentieth century's also-rans. First, Jim Callaghan, the Labour prime minister whose Winter of Discontent ushered in the Thatcher era:
The past may be, as L P Hartley wrote, another country, but it's rarely as foreign as Britain in the 1970s. Viewed from the United Kingdom of 2005, the day before yesterday is a banana republic without the weather. Inflation was up over 25 per cent, marginal tax rates were up over 90 per cent, and the only thing heading in the other direction was the pound, which nosedived so suddenly in 1976 that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, en route to an International Monetary Fund meeting, was summoned back from the departure lounge at Heathrow to try to talk his currency back up to sub-basement level. Her Majesty's Government had itself applied for a $4 billion loan from the IMF. Were the Britain of thirty years ago to re-emerge Brigadoon-like from the mists, it would be one of those basket cases that Bono hectors Bush about debt forgiveness for.
After Sunny Jim, we get Clean for Gene with the man who finished off one of his party's most powerful figures:
If you strike at the king, you have to kill him. And, amazingly, Eugene McCarthy did. On March 12th 1968, the not exactly barnstorming senator got 42.4 per cent of Democratic votes in the New Hampshire primary and denied the sitting president even a majority of his own party's supporters: Lyndon Johnson secured just 49.5 per cent. Within three weeks, he was gone: the President announced he would not seek re-election and effectively ended his political career. The king was dead, long live ... well, not Senator McCarthy: the man who plunged the dagger in did not take the crown. But his few short weeks of stumping the Granite State changed his party, with consequences it lives with to this day...
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