Why do these wretched men not retire, gently, diplomatically, in a dignified way? They surely do not fear death. Presidents attract assassins. Retired presidents do not
Let us now praise famous men. Abdelaziz Bouteflika, for example. What goes on in his comatose brain? What moves in the 82-year old heart of the zombie president who – as the Algerians protesting his fifth attempt at presidential power have just discovered – will now stay on as a coffin-leader into next year. Or, who knows, the year afterwards?
But why on earth do men like Bouteflika do these things? In his case, he’s not just “clinging to power”. He is being prevented from entering the grave.
Old men forget, observed Shakespeare’s Henry V, and wartime diplomat Duff Cooper used this as the title of his memoirs. “Autumn has always been my favourite season,” he wrote. “… I love the sunlight but I cannot fear the coming of the dark.” He lived for another 11 years.
Winston Churchill was 80 when, on the morning of 23 March 1955, he was shocked to read the headline in The Guardian: “Cabinet urging premier to resign. His health said to be retarding his work.”