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Here's my U.S. News column for this week. It's on the Canadian and Mexican elections this year; Canada votes later this month and Mexico in July. These elections are not headline news in the United States, but they're important to us and, I thought, deserved some notice. I wrote it in part because I think there's an interesting symmetry in the party politics of these two otherwise quite different countries. Here's another piece by Jorge Castaneda, who was Vicente Fox's first foreign minister and who has written widely and smartly on politics in Mexico and Latin America. / He grew up as part of the longtime-ruling PRI elite (his father was foreign minister too), supported the PRD in the 1990s, and backed PAN's Vicente Fox in 2000; more recently he announced he was running as an independent candidate for president in this year's election, but his candidacy doesn't seem to have gained any traction (I'm not clear on whether he's still running). His most fascinating book, I think, is Perpetuating Power: How Mexican Presidents Are Chosen, on how Mexican presidents under the old PRI system selected their successors. His old PRI connections enabled him to interview four living former presidents—Luis Echeverria, Jose Lopez Portillo, Miguel de la Madrid, and Carlos Salinas de Gortari—on how each was chosen by his predecessor and how each in turn chose his successor (Salinas's choice, Luis Donaldo Colosio, was assassinated during the 1994 campaign). The system no longer exists; the last PRI president, Ernesto Zedillo, left the choice of PRI nominee up to a primary in 1999, and the PRI candidate lost to Fox. Had Castaneda not conducted his interviews, history would not know the almost Shakespearean stories of how these more or less all-powerful men chose their more or less all-powerful successors. Perpetuating Power is, unfortunately, an abridgment of the Spanish original, La Herencia, which I wish I could read. On current politics, Castaneda takes a more negative view of Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, the front-running candidate in the polls in Mexico, than I do, and it's a view I take seriously. The question is whether Lopez Obrador would be the kind of center-left president the United States can live with comfortably, as Brazil's Lula da Silva has turned out to be, or a more dangerous demagogue.

I also wrote an opinion article for last Friday's Wall Street Journal on K Street; the Journal put it online Sunday. I'll have more to say on the Jack Abramoff scandal, Tom DeLay's decision not to try to regain the majority leadership, and the race for that post in the days ahead.