Margolis, Mac, Newsweek
Byline: Mac Margolis
A war of words between their president and their a[umlaut]biggest screen idol has mesmerized Argentines.
life hasn't been easy lately for Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner. After winning the election with more than half the vote last year, the mercurial leader has hit a wall: her approval ratings have sagged to 39 percent, down from 69 percent a year ago. Last month a million people hit the streets in Buenos Aires, banging pots and pans in the classic Argentine rebuke to leaders who have fallen from favor. Her government narrowly missed a[umlaut]earning a "red card"--a soccer term for a penalty for foul play--from the International Monetary Fund, essentially for cooking the books on inflation. She is at a[umlaut]dagger point with the nation's most powerful media empire, Clarin, her fiercest critic. And on a recent trip to Europe, the 59-year-old populist leader leased a private jet to a[umlaut]preempt foreign creditors from suing to impound her official presidential plane over unsettled debts. Then, just when the mood could seem to get no sourer, she fell out a[umlaut]with actor Ricardo Darin, the nation's biggest screen idol.
A war of words is nothing unusual for a politician--in fact, diatribes and heated discussion are part of the job description for any elected official. But Kirchner's clash with Darin is an unfathomable public-relations disaster. Why would the ultra-image-conscious national leader (she is mockingly known as Botox Evita, with a reference to the beloved and iconic former first lady Evita Peron) go stiletto-to-toe with a tousled-haired cultural hero who a few years ago brought home an Academy Award for The Secret in Their Eyes as Best Foreign-Language Film? …