Schieffer: Farewell, Fidel

In a file photo Cuban President Fidel Castro gestures during a three-hour speech Friday, Feb. 6, 2004, in Havana, Cuba. Official media in Cuba said Tuesday Feb. 19, 2008, that Feidel Castro has resigned as president of Cuba.
AP Photo/Jose Goitia
Weekly commentary by CBS Evening News chief Washington correspondent and Face the Nation host Bob Schieffer.

The shrinking world of dictators lost one of its real veterans last week when Fidel Castro announced his retirement.

Journalism was not so lucky. Fidel will continue to write his newspaper column with one change: It will no longer be "A Report From the Commander-in-Chief." He'll just sign it with a humble by-line, "Comrade Fidel."

What he is doing, of course, is no different than what many of our former leaders have done. Some of our former presidents have become quite wealthy writing books.

But let's not forget what is different. He deserves the right to speak freely only for himself. Other Cubans could go to jail for speaking their minds.

For sure, we are in this country a long way from Castro's Cuba. But I invite you to keep in mind Fidel Castro's idea of a free press, that all information must be cleared by the government the next time you hear about one of our reporters being called before a grand jury to reveal their sources.

Americans are too smart to knowingly allow the suppression of free speech. But if the government can force reporters to reveal their government contacts, we will be headed down a dangerous road.

How can the press be an independent source of information, the watchdog on government it was meant to be, if it must tell the government where it's getting its information?

It's a good thing when former government officials, even people like old Fidel Castro, give us their version of history, but it's better when the rest of us have that same opportunity without fear of government interference.

I'm Bob Schieffer, and I approve this commercial for the First Amendment.

E-mail Face the Nation.

By Bob Schieffer
  • Bob Schieffer On Twitter»

    Bob Schieffer is a CBS News political contributor and former anchor of "Face The Nation," which he moderated for 24 years before retiring in 2015.