The Five Most Powerful Americans...

The five most powerful people in America over the next eighteen months will be:

1. Dick Cheney, because he runs the executive branch and is the closest thing the Republicans have to an ideological rudder. Forget the Baker Commission. Forget Bush (if you haven’t already). Cheney will have more say over what happens in Iraq, Iran, and North Korea, during the next eighteen months than any other single person. He will want to American troops to stay in Iraq until the civil war makes that impossible. He will also seek to bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities.

2. John McCain, because he is the major counterweight in the Republican Party to Dick Cheney and the neo-cons, and is more trusted by the American people than any other person in public life. McCain has the capacity to restrain Cheney’s wild ambitions, and quietly bolster the case Robert Gates and Jim Baker will make about changing the direction of foreign policy in the Middle East. It is in McCain’s interests to do so. McCain will become steadily more powerful as power ebbs in the White House. McCain’s decisions in the next eighteen months about what other issues to take on and how will shape the national debate.

3. Nancy Pelosi, because she is the closest thing the Democrats have to a leader, and the Democrats are the closest thing America has to an opposition party. HRC will not risk getting out in front on any major issue. So Pelosi’s decisions about priorities for the Democrats over the next eighteen months – whether getting out of Iraq, setting out an agenda for national health care, or making the tax code more progressive – will do much to determine how the public views what’s at stake in 2008.

4. Ben Bernanke, because he will have more influence than anyone over how fast the economy moves. If he is too hawkish on inflation, he could turn the current slowdown into a full-blown recession. That would propel a Democrat into the White House in 2008.

5. Jon Stewart, because he is the closest thing America has to a guide as to what is most laughable in Washington, and effective ridicule is one of the most powerful of all political weapons.


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