Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Vladimir Vladimirovitch, 2007 Person of the Year

For some reason I thought Time Magazine would announce its choice for Person of the Year only on Friday, so I planned to write a post today about who I'd pick for the title. Vladimir Putin was my choice, but since Time already named him as POY today, you'll have to believe me that I really did think of him before the announcement.

Putin is as close as you can get to a natural choice. He has made more of an impact than just about anyone this year, flexing his international muscle on various issues: Iran, missile defense, Kosovo, etc., as well as fortifying his position in the Kremlin even as he prepares to leave the presidency. His heir presumptive, Dmitry Medvedev, will appoint him as Russia's next prime minister.

Time named four runners up: Al Gore, J.K. Rowling, Hu Jintao and Gen. David Petraeus. Of all of these, Hu Jintao is the only one I'd also pick as a runner up. The Chinese leader is changing his very important country. The others, on the other hand, have not had a great impact this year.

Al Gore was the rightful winner of the Nobel Prize, but most of what he did was in 2006. Thanks to him, most of the presidential candidates have addressed environmental issues, but again - this is the result of what he did last year.

J. K. Rowling wrote a series of books that got young people to read again. Her main impact came when she published the first books, not when she wrote the final novel or outed Dumbledore.

Gen. Petraeus has a tough job, but the war in Iraq is still a quagmire and he hasn't created such a sea change.

There are three others I would have chosen as runners-up, if I were a Time editor: German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has been a positive and influential leader at the national, European and International levels; Nikolas Sarkozy, the new French president who seems very different from anything we've seen in that country and who was able to stand up to striking workers protesting his plan to roll back some of their wasteful privileges; and Mahmoud Ahmedinijad, who has been able to drive the world crazy. Hugo Chavez would have made it into my list too, had his constitutional amendments been approved by Venezuelan voters.

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