History repeats itself, first as tragedy,
second as farce.
-- Karl Marx
A call to the switchboard of the Central Committee
of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union:
Caller: Are you looking for the next Secretary?
Operator: Comrade, are you sick?
Caller: Yes, and very, very old!
-- Russian joke circa 1983
The mid eighties were crazy times for people who tracked Soviet politics. The quarter century of Brezhnev's rule came to an end when he died in 1982. He was 76 and barely coherent when giving public speeches.
Another Russian joke from that period: Brezhnev ascends the podium and starts reading "Oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh. Oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh." Panicking aidees whisper from behind: "Leonid Ilyich, THIS IS NOT THE SPEECH! It's us playing tic-tac-toe!" (Cyrillic 'h' is written as 'x').
What followed was a rapid succession of very old Party Secretaries who died on the job very quickly.
Brezhnev was replaced by Yuri Andropov. He lasted just over a year - assumed office in November 1982 and died in February 1984.
The next was Konstantin Chernenko. He died after one year and 1 month in office at the age of 74. Rumors say he was ill most of the time.
When he died I was in high school. The days of the funerals were declared state days of mourning and schools and workplaces were closed so people could watch the funerals on TV. A fellow student in my class wrote "REST" for that day in his daily planner. You should have seen the reaction of our home room teacher - it was so funny!
Ok, so where am I going with all this?
The presumptive Republican nominee is John McCain, who is 71 years old now, and will be 72 when/if he actually does become the president.
Our current president is barely coherent when giving public speeches.
We may be heading for a re-run...