Lions of Europe.
For purists like myself it isn't the game that's changed, it's life. As I live in Europe, Switzerland to be exact, the shock of the new-style politician of the continent is as astounding to me as the change for the worse in what used to be my favorite game in America. What baseball once was to Americans, politics used to be to Europeans: a game perhaps, but back then played by giants.
I suppose the great Conrad Adenauer spoiled it for a lot of good German leaders that followed, and they were all very, very good. Erhard, Brandt, Schmidt, Kohl: no country in Europe has produced anything like this list. This is why Germany is the richest and most powerful nation of Europe today. Angela Merkel, the present chancellor, is what one would expect from an East German communist bureaucrat: efficient, uncaring about the individual, monochromatic, and very dull. Austerity for those who spend more than they earn is her mantra. Greeks, Spaniards, Portuguese, and Italians are her bete noirs, people who prefer going to the beach to going to the office, and the euro is her way of controlling them--and, of course, punishing them. Her EU bureaucrats are as corrupt as they come, but as efficient as the Gestapo once was in inflicting pain. Financially, that is.
France was saved by Charles de Gaulle, of whom Churchill once remarked, "His cross of Loraine was the heaviest he [Winnie] had to carry." De Gaulle was a difficult man, a physical giant with 18th-century breath, but he nevertheless managed to turn France from the most shamed loser into a winner by inventing a resistance to the German occupation that
hardly existed--until after the war, that is--and forcing the Allies to concede to France a place not only on the Security Council but also as an occupying power in Germany. Le grand Charles did all this through strength of will, and then he returned to power in 1958, betrayed the army in Algeria, ended the war there, and forced through a constitution that to this day has kept France from the partisan haggling that had brought her to her knees time and again.
Spain and Portugal enjoyed years of peace and progress under two dictatorships, those of Franco and Salazar. They kept their countries out of World War II, stood up to Hitler--a natural fascist ally--and allowed peaceful transitions to democracy towards the end of their lives. De Gasperi in Italy managed to control the squabbling Italians and oversee the Italian economic miracle of the '60s. I won't bring up my own country, Greece, because Greek politicians were always corrupt, using their office of state as a source of political patronage. (Greece has a public sector seven times that of Britain.)
The greatest of them all, of course, was Margaret Thatcher, who broke the stranglehold of the unions, liberated the economy, allowed families to purchase their own homes, and made Britain great once again. She is reviled like no other because of these antisocialist endeavors, but if it weren't for Maggie, Britain today would be another Italy, or even a Greece.
David Cameron, a nice man, is no Thatcher, and next year this Milliband fellow will make the Iron Lady look like Joan of Arc. Just look at French President Hollande, a midget both in size and stature compared to de Gaulle. The EU is beyond reform because no leader is strong enough to loosen the stranglehold of the Brussels bureaucracy. Their belief in global governance is a sham and their mantra about freedom and democracy an even bigger one, as only a very narrow range of opinions is tolerated. We won the war against Hitler and lost our freedoms to EU bureaucrats without a fight. Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio?