Gorbymania! Former Soviet Dictator Mikhail Gorbachev Enjoys Global Celebrity Status Unmatched by Any Other Ex-Political Leader. but Is He a Prophet of World Peace or a Dangerous Pied Piper?

Article excerpt

There are many pretenders to fame who are, as Clint Eastwood's Dirty Harry would say, legends in their own minds. Then there is Mikhail Gorbachev, who is a legend of mythic proportions in the minds of countless millions. He is lionized as the man who ended the Cold War. Or, as the title of the Gorbachev biography by bestselling author Gail Sheehy suggests, he is The Man Who Changed the World.

Mikhail Gorbachev continues to change the world. The August Coup of 1991, which supposedly swept him from power, actually propelled him to new heights. Within months of his formal December 25, 1991, resignation as president of the Soviet Union, he was being heralded as the new global environmental and spiritual leader at the 1992 United Nations Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro.

At Rio, the Nobel Laureate and Time magazine's "Man of the Decade" was appointed to head an international commission to draft an Earth Charter, a new set of ethical principles to guide the planet. He now leads the global effort to have the charter--which he calls a new "kind of Ten Commandments, a 'Sermon on the Mount,'" for humanity--formally adopted by religious bodies, private organizations, corporations and governments. The Rio summit was also the launch pad for Green Cross International, of which Gorbachev is founder and president. Head-quartered in Geneva, Switzerland, Green Cross provides a forum for many Gorbachev-led initiatives. The organization also boasts formal consultative status with the UN and the Council of Europe, and direct funding from governments.

Except for Pope John Paul II, no other contemporary world figure commands such near-universal respect or radiates such star power. Presidents, prime ministers, sultans, kings, billionaires, titans of business, media mavens, and movie stars all shamelessly court Gorbachev like teenyboppers flocking after their latest MTV idol.

Such was the case on his October tour of the United States, which included a conference in Atlanta with former President George Bush and former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, moderated by NBC news anchor Tom Brokaw. There was also a speech at Auburn University, an interview on ABC's This Week, and a New York City confab, where the revered "elder statesman" was honored for his environmental contributions. There was even a trip to the heartland: a summit in Appleton, Wisconsin, with a governor, civic and business leaders, and representatives of U.S.-Russian sister cities.

In the weeks and months preceding his U.S. trip, world citizen Gorbachev was a headliner at many events, including the 80th birthday party of former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres (along with Bill Clinton, former South African President F.W. de Klerk, Hollywood actress Kathleen Turner, and other glitterati). Not to mention international conferences in Japan, Italy and the Netherlands on the new "World Water Crisis." And European events to launch the publication (in German, Spanish, Dutch, French, and Russian) of his new book My Agenda for the Earth. Then there was Ted Turner's disarmament television series on PBS, "Avoiding Armageddon," with Gorbachev in a starring role, dispensing wisdom on "interdependence" and the need to "move towards a new world order." There were also the Biovision World Life Sciences Forum in Lyon, France, and the Rome Summit of Nobel Laureates, an annual event organized by Gorbachev.

With all of this, Gorbachev still found time to record his first English narration, a new politically correct rendition of composer Sergei Prokofiev's "Peter and the Wolf." He is accompanied in this environmentalist tale--told from the poor wolf's point of view--by fellow narrators Bill Clinton and Sophia Loren.

What a life! What a guy! What a visionary! What a humanitarian! Yes, above all, Mikhail Gorbachev's admiring hosts remind us, the man is a tireless humanitarian, toiling for world peace, democracy and Mother Earth. This headline from the lead front-page story of the Appleton Post-Crescent on October 1 is typical of his adulatory press reviews: "Once Cold War foe. …