A tale of three leaders: the Unhinged Populist, Mr. Danger and The Poodle …

Three youthful new leaders came to power in 1997, 1999 and 2000, respectively.

Their mothers must have been very, very proud. Two even won elections!

Since then, they've had difffering fortunes.

One forced multinational energy companies to give his country a bigger cut of its oil wealth and pumped the surplus into education, healthcare and subsidized groceries for the poor.

The other two cracked down on civil liberties at home and launched a war of aggression against a little third-world state that they'd spent 12 years softening up with sanctions and over 120,000 combat air sorties (since the last time they invaded it).

The latter were both nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize in 2002. They're called democratic leaders -- the leaders of the free world. One of them finally won an election with 51 percent of the tally in 2004 and declared that he had a mandate. It might have even been a fair vote. The other, after a comfortable re-election in 2001, just squeaked by for a third term with 35 percent of the electorate in 2005.

The third guy won twice more, on each occassion getting the same 60 percent he picked up the first time around. They call him a "threat to democracy."

We've always been at war with Eastasia.

Anyway, in case you're wondering how they're doing now, here are some figures:

  • Venezuelan Institute for Data Analysis, April 12: Chavez approval at 60 percent

  • Fox News, April 20: Bush approval at 33 percent

  • Fox News, April 21: Blair approval at 31 percent

  • P.S.: four out of five Spaniards think pulling their troops from Iraq was a good thing, and Zapatero had a 58 percent approval rating as of March 18.

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