12/17/2008 10:02 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

The Case For Palin As Time Person Of The Year


Look, people. Barack Obama is going to be Time Magazine's Person Of The Year. You can pretty much put that in the bank, where it will probably end up accruing as much value as anything else you've placed in a soon-to-be-nationalized bank over the past year. And honestly, given the fact that every President of the United States gets to be Time Magazine's Person Of The Year, everyone should be okay with it. Even those opposed to Obama can take heart in the fact they gave the honor to Vladimir Putin last year.

That's not stopping a few people from mounting quixotic campaigns for others. Take this column from MarketWatch's Jon Friedman. He thinks that the Person of the Year honorific should go to Sarah Palin. You remember her, right? Sure you do, she will not ever go away! Anyway, Friedman believes a case can be made for Time to "go out on a limb and select Palin over the obvious pick, President-elect Barack Obama." And it's not because Friedman thinks Obama's undeserving. "Obama revolutionized and electrified the political scene, becoming the first African-American to win the U.S. presidential election," he notes. "Further, he accomplished a far-reaching goal. He made politics seem accessible and relevant to a nation of disenfranchised Americans, including generations of African-Americans."

But Palin, according to Friedman, "achieved something remarkable in her own right," namely, "it was possible for (truly) anyone to rise to political prominence on the national stage, whether she strikes you today as an inspiration or a punch line."

Right! And the same thing can be said for Admiral James Stockdale!

Friedman continues:

Palin's overnight fame seemed even more unlikely than that of Obama, who had followed a carefully scripted game plan designed to capitalize on the disillusionment over such better-known and seasoned rivals as Hillary Clinton and John McCain. By contrast, Palin emerged as the accidental celebrity of politics.

Remember, only a handful of political junkies outside of Alaska knew much about Palin as recently as Aug. 28. Then, 24 hours later, John McCain tapped her to be his running mate and unwittingly unleashed Palinmania. McCain was the presidential candidate on the Republican ticket -- but was there ever any doubt about which one was driving the media train? It was Palin.

I think that if Friedman's under the impression that Palin's rise to prominence didn't come about through a "carefully scripted game plan," he should go back over the cloak-and-dagger tick-tock that brought her from Alaska to Ohio for her big day out as the GOP Veep pick. She had a convention speech reformulated to her specifications, remember? I seem to recall that some new clothes got bought for her or something? And I find it hard to believe that anyone really believes that the McCain campaign "unwittingly unleashed Palinmania." The whole point of having her on the ticket was to unleash some mania for a moribund campaign that had decided that an ever-escalating series of stunts to win news cycles was necessary to win the election.

And anyway, there was also that whole thing about Palin being the largest drag on the McCain ticket? To me, that sort of cuts against the notion that it's a good thing for "anyone to rise to political prominence." Maybe it's important to know that the Vice President isn't in charge of the Senate and stuff!

Anyway, Friedman can rest assured that the magazine will undoubtedly pretend to give Palin a fair hearing. Managing Editor Rick Stengel will pull out all the stops where this pretense is concerned, up to and including empaneling a group of elites to weigh in on the matter. Of course, this year's panel includes NBC News' Brian Williams -- who's likely to go all-in with some historical waxing on the Obama presidency, Elizabeth Edwards -- a fellow at the progressive-leaning Center for American Progress, actor John Slattery -- who canvassed for Obama in Virginia, and Representative Artur Davis (D-AL) -- who went to law school with the President-Elect.

So, I'd say the cards are well nigh stacked in Obama's favor. But even if none of that were true, Stengel's got an even stronger reason to give Obama the nod. With Election Day newspapers emerging as the only truly profitable model of print media out there, Time would be foolish to pass up a chance at that gravy train.