Now that Eric Crouch has won the Heisman Trophy in a very close vote, we can turn to another award that this year is also without a slam-dunk winner: Time magazine's Person of the Year.
Insiders are reporting that Time is in a quandary. Its criteria for picking Person of the Year are self-confessedly amoral: The winner should be the biggest impact player of the year. By that standard, Osama bin Laden is a no-brainer.
Time's marketing folks, though, are reluctant to have a cover that won't inspire many buys at supermarket check-out counters. Also, a bin Laden choice would lead to criticism of the magazine for contributing to the inspiration of future terrorists.
Time could have bin Laden on the cover and still sell lots of copies only if two things happen. First, the United States very quickly will have to find him and give him what he has inspired many young men to seek. Second, Time will have to be willing to show bin Laden's dead body on the cover of a macabre "Corpse of the Year" issue.
That would give the magazine immunity from the charge of encouraging terrorism. Few people wanted to emulate Mussolini after they saw photos of his dead body. But bin Laden may be more slippery than past evildoers, so Time's best bet to cover the event that had the biggest impact is by naming the World Trade Center its Towers of the Year.
A better selection would be Todd Beamer and other passengers who fought the hijackers on board United Flight 93 and kept it from crashing into a Washington landmark. Or maybe the choice should be Beamer's brave widow, Lisa, who says she knows "where Todd is, where I'm going to be someday, and I know who's in control. ... I get comfort in knowing that God knows my story. He knew it was better for Todd to be on that plane that day than to spend the rest of his life on Earth."
Other options are possible. President Bush is a deserving candidate, but since he was Person of the Year in 2000, editors will be reluctant to repeat themselves. Future-oriented Time might give us a Clone of the Year. Manhattan-centric Time could put Mayor Rudy Giuliani on the cover, but the firefighters of New York would be a better choice -- and a popular one.
But here's the alternative that my newsweekly, World, will present in its Dec. 22 issue: Attorney General John Ashcroft, the person charged with bringing terrorists to justice and not letting them abuse our judicial process. He showed guts last Thursday by refusing to kiss up to those senators who have not come to grips with what is needed to fight terrorism. He's doing his job as he has all year, and not backing down in the face of scorn heaped on him by the academic and media high priests of our established religion, secular liberalism.
That Ashcroft believes in and demonstrates God's sovereignty over lives and careers drives The New York Times crazy. Its columnist Maureen Dowd muttered last month: "It's weird what tricks fate plays. The great hope of the Christian right who was toppled by a dead man and his widow has re-emerged as a colossus bestriding the country." Ashcroft didn't try to Gore his opponent by instituting legal action after his very narrow defeat for re-election last fall. He accepted the loss and ended up in a position that, since Sept. 11, has become more important than ever.
I particularly appreciate the way he has not tried to curry favor by curtailing prayer. One of the scandals at the Department of Justice this year, according to liberal reporters, is that the attorney general prays with staffers, as he did during his senatorial term. The horror! Time won't make him Person of the Year, but most Americans see him as something far better -- a person of integrity in a capital city where that quality is exceedingly rare.