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When the American election dragged on for weeks unresolved, Mexicans joked, Cheer up! We used to know who would win our elections a year ahead of time. That changed July 2, when, after 71 years, the Institutional Revolutionary Party (P.R.I.) lost the presidency, not to an insurgent but rather to a former Coca-Cola executive. It was a long road for Vicente Fox Quesada, 58, of the center-right National Action Party (P.A.N.), who lost a 1991 gubernatorial election to electoral fraud. Is the charismatic man from Coke the real thing for Mexican democracy? The brash attitude of this rancher's son (here photographed with his horse named Julio Dos, or July 2, Fox's birth date and his victory date) strikes some as disturbing, others as forthright. But because the P.A.N. did not win a legislative majority, Fox will have to work with his rivals to build Mexico's economy and expand reform. So far, however, he is the President that refreshes.
Rocket Man WEN HO LEE
After a breach of nuclear security at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, someone had to be held responsible. Was Taiwan-born engineer Wen Ho Lee cast because he looked the part? Under congressional pressure, the Justice Department brought 59 counts against Lee for allegedly helping the Chinese steal bomb secrets. In August, however, an FBI agent recanted key statements, the case fell apart, and some charged that Lee was tarred as a spy because of his race. Lee pleaded guilty to one count of downloading classified data to storage tapes and is cooperating with investigators as part of a plea agreement. Near year's end, the government was combing a landfill for the tapes. Its credibility may be harder to retrieve.
The Lady Vanquishes HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON
New Democrat or new dealer? Savior or carpetbagger? Feminist or fraud? Hillary Rodham Clinton took her Great American Rorshach test to New York State, becoming the only First Lady ever to win office. She didn't start small, accepting a gift-wrapped Senate nomination from the Democrats. But Hillary, seen here in the White House solarium, was not a natural campaigner. Her stump voice was singsongy and off-putting. She made geographical gaffes and donned a Yankees cap that may as well have been stamped "phony." Yet she won in the strangest way: through boring, old-fashioned retail politics. Starting with a base in liberal New York City, she out-New Yorked her native-son opponent, Representative Rick Lazio, who entered the race after New York City mayor Rudolph Giuliani dropped out. She became a fixture in rural upstate and mastered wonky agriculture policy. In a way, it was win-win all around. Democrats got a high-profile leader; Republicans got fodder for at least six years of fund-raising letters. (Hey, Ted Kennedy's not going to be around forever.) Her unfaithful husband got a legacy of sorts, if not a pass out of the doghouse; on election night, Hillary stood flanked by her daughter Chelsea and her colleague, Senator Charles Schumer, while Bill was well off to the side. After three decades behind the scenes, Hillary now has a power base of one's own.
Somehow He'll Manage JACK WELCH