In recent weeks, world leaders of a certain age have watched the U.S. presidential primaries with rapt—perhaps nervous—attention. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, in particular, has had reason to take note as the upstart Barack Obama steadily pulled ahead of Hillary Clinton. Brown, who turned 57 last week, must call an election of his own sometime in the next two years, and will face 41-year-old Tory leader David Cameron—pitting Brown's long experience in government against a youthful figure who's trying to brand himself as an agent of change. Sound familiar?
In fact, the parallels between Brown's predicament and Clinton's don't end with their ages (she's 60) or those of their opponents. For years Hillary toiled under the shadow of her husband, as did Brown under that of his flamboyant predecessor, Tony Blair. Hil and Bill's unusual relationship was subject to relentless media scrutiny. So was the Blair-Brown partnership. And like the Clintons, Tony and Gordon's twosome suffered some serious public low points. Those who have read about the Clintons' White House rows can't help but notice echoes in the historian Andrew Rawnsley's account of Tony and Gordon's descent into a "marriage strained by stretches of crockery-throwing." Figuratively speaking, of course.
In both cases the clashes stemmed, in part, from profound differences in style. As No. 2s, Hillary and Gordon shared a reputation for competence and wonkishness, as well as a lack of charisma and slick communication skills. They were dutiful if dull; Bill and Tony were the masters of presentation blessed with ultrasensitive political antennas. Now, striking out on their own, Hillary and Gordon seem exposed, their foibles sharply highlighted. The risk, as Clinton's campaign has shown, is that experience alone might not be enough to woo voters, especially when stacked up against a glamorous young politician who has captured the public imagination.
Brown still has some advantages over Hillary that should comfort him even if her bid fails. Unlike Clinton, he won't face an election soon. And Cameron may find it harder to sell himself as an exemplar of change. For all his youth, his life story—as a stockbroker's conservative, Eton-educated son—hardly has the transcendent outsider appeal of Obama, the son of a Kenyan dad and a Kansas mom who grew up and ran for president of the United States. Only in America? Brown should be so lucky.
South Africa's president-to-be, Jacob Zuma, is fast becoming the continent's best-known polygamist. Having married his fourth wife in January, Zuma is now reportedly preparing to wed a fifth, and negotiating a bride price with lucky lady No. 6—a situation that's sparking controversy in a country struggling to seem modern.
Polygamy, which is legal in South Africa, remains common in tribally controlled areas, and it's one way the traditionalist Zuma distinguishes himself from his urbane, English-educated predecessor, Thabo Mbeki. But the practice is increasingly unpopular among South Africa's cosmopolitan elite, who fear it makes their country look backward. Yet many ordinary South Africans don't seem to mind Zuma's marital ways. Perhaps that's because they have more pressing concerns, such as AIDS, widespread poverty and rolling blackouts. When you can't put food on your family's plate, it's hard to care about your neighbor's, or your president's, domestic arrangements.
The Olympics: Delegations: No Dissent
With the Olympics five months away, China is already winning one competition: the P.R. war over its human-rights record. Despite setbacks—Steven Spielberg recently resigned as creative adviser to protest Darfur—Beijing has some unlikely allies: liberal democracies, which are moving to ban athletes from criticizing China.
In recent months, delegations in New Zealand, Belgium and the United Kingdom have forbidden their teams from speaking out in defense of Falun Gong or Tibet, and from wearing the red, green and black "Team Darfur" sweatbands popular with American athletes. Agitators risk expulsion from the Games. A backlash in the U.K. forced the head of its Olympic Committee to reassess, but other teams are holding firm.
Is there precedent? During the 1968 Mexico City Games, two African-American medalists were suspended by the IOC for giving the Black Power salute from the winners' podium. But now the censure would be self-imposed.
Consider it a lesson in the ever more sophisticated ways China throws its weight around. It wasn't a surprise when Rupert Murdoch, eager to score satellite broadcasting rights there, killed a critical book being produced by his publishing house, then praised Beijing's "moral values." Yet today, even athletes are playing along when there's much less at stake. Seems everyone fears the dragon.
—Adam B. Kushner
Fast Chat: Still Turning Heads
Kathleen Turner wrote a memoir, "Send Yourself Roses," in which she dishes about her costars. She spoke with Nicki Gostin.
Why write a memoir now?
A lot of it was getting to a certain place in my life where I felt I had 30 years in the business. I think women my age are creating this wave, that society hasn't caught up with yet, being the first generation of women who are financially independent.
re 53. Do you think women in their 50s get ignored?
Oh, yeah. I think society writes us off. Once we're not needed every day as a mother, that's it.
You said a few years ago that you could walk into a restaurant and have every guy's head turn.
That's an unfinished quote. I think the question was about sexuality. I said it comes from yourself.
Is it weird to lose that power?
Absolutely. I'm very grateful that I don't think it's ever been the center of my confidence.
You wrote about Nicolas Cage causing problems on the set of"Peggy Sue Got Married,"and now he's threatening to sue. Are you surprised?
Yes, actually, I was.
re doing stage work now, which doesn
t pay as much. Do you have to cut corners?
Yeah, I don't eat out as often.
Do you take the subway?
Mostly the bus.
Fighting Words: Archbishop Of Candor
For an eminent scholar, the Archbishop of Canterbury still has much to learn when it comes to choosing words. However good his intentions, Rowan Williams inflamed opinion by suggesting that Islamic Sharia would inevitably find a place in Britain's legal system. At risk: not just his reputation as leader of the world's 80 million Anglicans but the chance of avoiding a churchwide rift.
Certainly, he's found little support among Africa's fast-growing Anglican provinces. Since the adoption of Sharia in northern Nigeria in 1999, Christians there have suffered increasing attacks from Muslim zealots. The idea of conciliation with Islam confirms suspicions of conservative local leadership that Williams sides with church liberals on hot-button social issues.
Such distrust won't help this summer at London's Lambeth Conference, a periodic gathering of Anglican leaders. "The possibility of a schism," says the Evangelical Alliance's Joel Edwards, "is always only one debate away." Cracks are already apparent: last week Uganda's church said its bishops would join other African churches in boycotting Lambeth in favor of a rival traditionalist conference in Jerusalem. Saving the Anglican Communion may take a little more tact from the archbishop.
Season For Romance: Love, Kremlin Style
Released on DVD just in time for Valentine's Day, "This Kiss Is Off the Record" charts the romance between an all-powerful Russian leader and his flight-attendant wife (publicity-shy Lyudmila Putin) from their St. Petersburg youth to his dramatic rise on the post-perestroika political scene.
Public figures' intimate lives have always made for great drama—a shame, then, that "This Kiss" is so shallow. The movie plays like a soap opera, as in a first-date scene where the lovebirds write their addresses on torn ticket halves—only to discover, decades later, that both have saved the memento in secret, through good times and bad.
Andrey Panin, the actor playing Putin (here called "Platov"), spins the prez as a tough guy with a heart of gold. It is a cliché painful to watch, made worse by melodramatic dialogue (when Platov's wife becomes upset that he is running for office, he declares, "Why should I sell sunflower seeds when there is a chance to work on the highest level?"). The film's grossest artistic liberty is to paint Putin as an ordinary hero, reluctant yet duty-bound to assume power. Such a portrait suggests that Putin will be relieved to resume his identity as a private citizen after he steps down—a highly unlikely plot twist.