Later this month, TIME magazine will select its annual “Person of the Year”. A spokesman for the magazine confirms that terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden is one of a dozen people being considered for the award. It’s time – right now – to cross his name off the candidates list.
It would be nice to think that someone who’s most notable accomplishment was arranging the murder of thousands of innocent men, women and children would be automatically ineligible for any award other than “Most Wanted Fugitive”. Unfortunately, mass murder is a trait that some former “Man of the Year” winners share. Adolph Hitler earned the nod in 1938, while Joseph Stalin won the following year and repeated in 1942.
A key difference is that in those years, TIME’s editors seemed to take the “Man of the Year” more seriously. World leaders and generals took 15 of the 18 awards between 1932 and 1949. So while they were merciless killers, Stalin and Hitler at least had some claim to the award.
Some more recent picks -- such as Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos (the first winner introduced as “Person of the Year” rather than “Man/Woman of the Year”) in 1999, CNN founder Ted Turner in 1991 and the planet Earth in 1988 -- seem to indicate that the award today is as much a gimmick to sell magazines as a legitimate attempt to explain who the single most influential person of the preceding year was. And while Americans may disagree about what should be done with Osama bin Laden, nobody’s going to argue that he should be used as a sales gimmick.
Of course, bin Laden did point a finger at some of the people who should get serious consideration for “Person of the Year”. After the horrific events of September 11, a far better choice would be the defending champion, President George W. Bush. If he alone wins “Person of the Year” it would be the first time anyone won back to back awards without sharing the honor. President Richard Nixon was the sole winner in 1971, and shared the prize with his assistant Henry Kissinger in 1972.
The president deserves consideration because of the way he has risen to the challenge posed by the war on terrorism. Bush’s speech to Congress on September 20 was one of the most stirring in American history. He has assembled a powerful coalition to fight terrorism. And according to Gallup, Bush’s approval rating has remained between 85 and 90% for eight straight weeks – a level of support the polling firm calls “unprecedented”.
Another excellent choice would be the New York City police and fire departments, so many of whom showed such amazing heroism on the day of the attacks. More than 300 firefighters and 23 police officers were killed in the collapse of the World Trade Center while trying to help others. A “People of the Year” award would be especially fitting after all the dangers they faced, and the dangers surviving New York City policemen and firefighters are facing every day.
Finally, how about a “People of the year” award for the members of the United States military? These brave Americans put their lives on the line every day to protect us from terrorism. And their mission has been a great success.
On short notice, they launched attacks against terrorists and their sanctuary half a world away. In less than two months, they laid waste to America’s enemies, while keeping civilian casualties to a minimum. And now, our elite forces are on the ground, supporting the air campaign and closing in on Laden and his associates.
TIME’s “Person of the year” should go to a person – or a group of people – who have done something positive this year. It should not be used to celebrate a terrorist. Instead of recognizing Osama bin Laden for the destruction he caused, the magazine should award the prize to those who are helping America move forward.