It takes a special kind of man to seek asylum in Mother Russia. Lee Harvey Oswald couldn’t make a go of it. Edward Snowden isn’t likely to either. Now we have Vic Yanukovych, the former winger and captain of the Kiev Rooftop Snipers. “I think Putin hates Yanukovych,” a Kremlin adviser told the New York Times.
But that still sounds a lot more inviting than what the fans back home have in mind for old Vic. Indeed, he must have heard or seen what just happened to some 25 statues of the late Vladimir Lenin. In beautifully coordinated performance art each and every one of them took a tumble across the fruited Ukrainian plain. Ice skaters in Sochi had nothing on the moves Lenin pulled off in his farewell performance. In some cases, he fell very slowly — you expected to hear cries of “Ti-i-im-ber” in the background. In others, he was dispatched in a flash. In at least one he fell forward and lost his head. In another he fell backward and was dragged by a rope from a truck through streets he had once policed. In the most grisly of the finales he was yanked straight up and hung from on high, as if in a replay of a much publicized scene in a recent episode of Homeland. After this it may no longer be President Obama’s favorite TV show. Better that he stick to the Golf Channel.
Television and politics perform their strange dance in myriad ways. If Mr. Yanukovych was saying “Ukraine turned on me,” a similarly likable sort was saying America had turned on him. Poor Piers Morgan. He learned the hard way. CNN wants him out. As do all but 50,000 Americanos from the key advertising demographic who chose to watch him the other night. It’s no skin off his nose, of course, which remains pointed ever skyward whenever the subject of America comes up. Of course, we’re going to miss him when he’s gone. Rachel Maddow is said to be in the running to replace him. If we can’t have Larry King back, maybe one of Larry’s ex-wives is available?
It’s been noticed that Republicans have lost their slot in late-night television. Jay Leno has been retired, the last of the breed to give the right a fair hearing and occasionally to offer a quip at the expense of the Homeland-ogling president. Now it’s nothing but Michelle and Biden on post-Leno TV, hosted by younger-demographic bait that is said to be all about niceness, content that makes cotton candy seem thicker than molasses.
Thank God we still have the Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous coming at us live from beautiful downtown Kiev and its bucolic environs. While it was bad news for privatization backers when Captain Vic’s river-view palace was nationalized, everyone enjoyed catching a glimpse of his luxury auto car collection, his Spanish galleon, his wild animal petting zoo, and even a Fabergé egg, perhaps a hand-me-down from the late Elizabeth Taylor. On the down side, no one has yet met Vic’s longstanding mistress, Liubov (literally, Lover Girl), 39, said to be the sister of the palace chef. Her whereabouts are unknown.
We’re suckers for happy endings, so here’s hoping she turns up at Vic’s side at some re-privatized seafront estate on the Crimea after its liberation, which seems to be in the works. The Russians are pulling out all stops, even if it means involving Cuba. In Crimea itself they have organized goon squads, who’ve managed to anger the Crimean Tatars whom Ukrainians allowed back to their homeland, decades after Stalinist Russia expelled them. Way to go, Muscovy. Reminding the world of your historic crimes should clinch the case for your latest grievances.
But brute thinking dies hard. Among those sent in to do Russia’s dirty work is a former heavyweight boxer named Nikolai Valuev, all 7'1", 320 plus pounds of him. “The Beast of the East” he was known in his boxing days. He’s big enough to terrify women and children, but in the ring he proved less successful against opponents half his size. There’s a lesson there. “Friends, Russia is with you,” he announced. He might have performed a better service had he limited his activism to pretending to be one of those intercontinental missiles that used to be hauled through Red Square on November 7. Now he’s nothing but EOW fodder, a Lurch of a reminder that Russia never picks on anyone its own size. Of course, if it did, it wouldn’t be so universally loved and admired.