Political dynastiesat home and abroad

The political adventures of the Bush and Clinton families remind me of presidential politics in Latin America, where I lived and worked for nearly 20 years. Political dynasties abound south of the border as a few families dominate the top jobs in their respective countries.

In the 1970s I saw Andres Pastrana, the son of a former president, take over in Columbia and later, voters in Peru and Venezuela brought back ex-presidents who had failed the first time around - Alan Garcia (the current president) in Peru and Carlos Andres Perez in Venezuela, who paved the way for egomaniacal dictator wannabe Hugo Chavez, who now rules that unfortunate country with an iron hand.

The latest example of these Latin American political dynasties is on display in Argentina, where Christina Fernandez de Kirchner has just been elected to succeed her husband, outgoing President Nestor Kirchner. If you think that Sra. de Kirchner is being compared to the legendary "Evita" Peron, you'd be wrong. Instead, she's being compared to U.S. presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton, the wife of a former president.

Here's how USA Today correspondent David Lynch described that comparison: "A distant figure looms over Sra. Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner ... and it isn't her husband Nestor, Argentina's current president, nor even the country's legendary icon, Eva Peron ... shadowing Kirchner is Hillary Clinton, who is mounting her own presidential effort thousands of miles to the north."

Both Mrs. Clinton and Mrs. Kirchner are lawyers who met their future husbands in college, and both married former southern governors who became president and presided over healthy, expanding economies. "Her (Kirchner's) model is not Evita. Her model is Hillary," a leading Argentine political analyst told USA Today. But the newspaper hastened to add that there are as many differences as similarities between Clinton and Kirchner. For one thing, Cristina Kirchner pays a lot of attention to her personal appearance and is the butt of countless Botox jokes in the Argentine media.

Another difference is that Kirchner was a prominent legislator before her husband was elected president. And finally, no single issue is associated with her rise to power the way that Hillary is linked with health-care reform. Kirchner campaigned against political dictatorship, during which thousands of people disappeared.

I find it unthinkable that my fellow voters would actually consider alternating the U.S. presidency between two families - the Bushes and the Clintons - for more than 20 years. That just doesn't make any sense with all of the other qualified candidates in the race. We're probably lucky that another Bush isn't running this time around because the present's younger brother, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, is smarter than "Dubya" and speaks better Spanish (and English too), which I learned when Jeb visited Venezuela as Florida's secretary of commerce a few years ago.

There is simply no way that I would vote to put Bill Clinton back in the White House. Conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer asked a key question: "Do Americans really want a historically unique two-headed presidency constantly buffeted by the dynamics of a dysfunctional marriage?" I don't think so. Of course, Hillary could resolve that issue by sending Bill all the way to Buenos Aires as our next ambassador to Argentina.

As a registered Democrat (Surprise!), I could vote for either Delaware Sen. Joe Biden or New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson next year although neither of them is liberal enough to win their party's presidential nomination. I like them because both men have much needed foreign policy experience, Biden as chairman of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee and Richardson as an effective special envoy and ambassador to the United Nations. On the Republican side of the aisle, I could support any of the main contenders except for former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson, who appears to be sleepwalking on the campaign trail.

As for Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, although he's a great American success story, I don't think he's quite ready for the presidency. His lack of experience was apparent when he vowed to meet with the world's most notorious dictators without pre-conditions. As experienced diplomats know, you send lower-level officials to meet with representatives of oppressive regimes before the president shows up to sign agreements that serve the best interests of our country. That's how it works in the real world.

Well, I began by writing about political dynasties in the U.S. and Latin America and finished with a preview of next year's presidential election in this country. The main point I want to make is that there are several qualified candidates in the running who aren't named Bush or Clinton. Let's look beyond those two families when we choose our next president.

• Guy W. Farmer, a semi-retired journalist and former U.S. diplomat, resides in Carson City.


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