LOVE AND DEATH: A Few More Roles Putin Should Try On for Size

Who knew Madeleine Albright was this sympathetic? According to a recent report in the Boston Globe, the U.S. secretary of state has had it with the nit-picking over President-elect Vladimir Putin's KGB past. Who are we, she asks, to question a man's resume? In short, Albright says, "we have to stop the psychobabble about the KGB thing."

Albright is correct. We should concentrate on Putin's predilection for role-playing instead. Now that he has endured the gimlet eye of hostile journalists and a bone-wearying campaign season - not to mention that tension-filled vote count - it's hard to deny Russia's future president the chance to play dress-up.

We've seen Judo Putin, Top Gun Putin and Submarine Hero Putin. While these are definite improvements over Altered-Equilibrium Yeltsin, impromptu surveys indicate that certain demographic groups would like to see Vladimir Vladimirovich branch out a little before the rigors of presidential office kick in. Among the potential roles suggested for Putin's period of state-sanctioned method acting:

Pop Star Putin. Young women, particularly those from the regions, specifically requested the chance to see Putin as a member of the boy-band Na-Na, preferably "the one with the big teeth." (It has yet to be determined which member of the band this is meant to refer to.) In addition to giving the president-elect the chance to improve upon the now-fading legend of Disco Yeltsin, a stint with Na-Na would also give critics a chance to see their future leader demonstrating the ability to move his mouth to pre-recorded lyrics, wear fringe and look irrepressibly cheerful. Polls indicate that the electorate has yet to see Putin do any one of these things, let alone all three at once.

Babushka Putin. As good for him as it is for us, the Babushka role is an optimal "purge" state that allows normally reticent and scripted individuals to throw caution to the winds and vent their spleen with restorative abandon. Complete with pension plan and a chilly half-room in the apartment of resentful family members, the experience of playing the cranky matriarch would allow Putin a healthy opportunity to plumb the depths of hidden resentment while exploring his feminine side (although this to a degree would also be accomplished during the Na-Na stint).

TB Ward Putin. Undoubtedly the most challenging of roles. Russia's large prison population has indicated that seeing Putin in a state of rapid consumptive deterioration would go a long way towards clarifying the enigmatic politician's stand on social welfare and health-care issues. On a similar note, a number of TB sufferers said that seeing Putin cheat on his Soros-sponsored drug regimen would make him seem "more human," without plunging him into the "clinically pathetic" category dominated by Yeltsin during his years in office.