My guess on the euro-crisis heroes.
Two heroines, actually.
And they would be Angela Merkel, German chancellor. And Christine Lagarde, newly appointed managing director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Angela Merkel and Christine Lagarde, the first women to lead Germany and the IMF, respectively, might also emerge as the key figures in rescuing the 17-nation-member eurozone. (Reuters)
They each have the skills you're looking for - calm, conciliatory and non-impulsive. Forging complex agreements, often with prickly personalities, is second nature for each.
As head of government of Europe's biggest economy, and fourth-largest in the world, Merkel gets invited everywhere and knows the players. As French finance minister immediately prior to her IMF gig, Lagarde summited with fellow finance ministers worldwide during her long tenure in the post to which Sarko appointed her.
Merkel heads the coalition government of a federated nation, which has required her - now in her second term, having been re-elected two years ago - to negotiate constantly with leaders of the other parties in her coalition, and with state-government leaders. (Rather more, say, than Obama is obliged to negotiate with Anthony Cuomo or Rick Perry.)
No resolution to the euro crisis will happen without Merkel; she has effective veto power. But she can't impose a Made in Germany solution that doesn't have at least the appearance of a joint venture, which is where the well-known and widely liked Lagarde comes in. Non-European nations are as aggravated as ever about the European monopoly on the IMF top job, an increasingly disagreeable tradition dating from the inception of the IMF and the World Bank at Bretton Woods. For all that, when Lagarde was lobbying for DSK's job - recall that DSK was set to quit later this year to contest next year's French presidential election - her swing through the Pacific Rim was met with widespread enthusiasm for her IMF candidacy.
My sense is that the ultimate decision-making juice would be with these two in any event. But compounding their prominence is the lame-duck status of Jean-Claude Trichet, the outgoing European Central Bank chief. Sarko is deeply unpopular at home and understandably focused on getting re-elected next year. And while Silvio Berlusconi heads the eurozone's No. 3 economy, his novelty act finally has lost its appeal even at home and there's a sense - harems or no harems - that after a decade or so in power (an eternity in Italian federal politics) his time has passed. It doesn't help that Italy is one of the nations now targeted by speculators driving down the value of Italian bonds on default rumors.
I'm not saying they won't get their hair mussed, as the George C. Scott character in Dr. Strangelove says in a not wholly dissimilar context. But if we get to December with a 17-member eurozone that appears to have a future, after all, Merkel and Lagarde may share cover honors as Time's people of the year. And that won't be the kiss of death it usually is, since they'll already have most of the heavy lifting behind them by that point.