NEW YORK – President George W. Bush for the second time was chosen as Time magazine’s Person of the Year, after winning re-election and ‘reshaping the rules of politics to fit his 10-gallon-hat leadership style’ – a reference to his cowboy image.
The news magazine’s editors tapped Bush ‘for sharpening the debate until the choices bled, for reframing reality to match his design, for gambling his fortunes – and ours – on his faith in the power of leadership.’
Time’s 2004 Person of the Year package, on U.S. newsstands Monday, includes an Oval Office interview with Bush, an interview with his father, former President George H. W. Bush, and a profile of Bush’s chief political adviser, Karl Rove.
In an interview with the magazine, Bush attributed his victory over Democratic candidate John Kerry to his foreign policy and the wars he began in Afghanistan and Iraq.
‘The election was about the use of American influence,’ Bush said.
After a grueling campaign, Bush remains a polarizing figure in America and around the world, and that’s part of the reason he earned the magazine’s honor, said Managing Editor Jim Kelly.
‘Many, many Americans deeply wish he had not won,’ Kelly said in a telephone interview. ‘And yet he did.’
In the Time article, Bush said he relishes that some people dislike him.
‘I think the natural instinct for most people in the political world is that they want people to like them,’ Bush said. ‘On the other hand, I think sometimes I take kind of a delight in who the critics are.’
Bush joins six other U.S. presidents who have twice won the magazine’s top honor: Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower (first as a general), Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton. Franklin Roosevelt holds the record with three nods from the editors.
Kelly said Bush has changed dramatically since he was named Person of the Year in 2000 after the Supreme Court awarded him the presidency.
‘He is not the same man,’ Kelly said. ‘He’s a much more resolute man. He is personally as charming as ever but I think the kind of face he’s shown to the American public is one of much, much greater determination.’
The magazine gives the honor to the person who had the greatest impact, good or bad, over the year.
Kelly said other candidates included Michael Moore and Mel Gibson, ‘because in different ways their movies tapped in to deep cultural streams,’ and political strategist Rove, who is widely credited with engineering Bush’s win. Kelly said choosing Rove alone would have taken away from the credit he said Bush deserves.
This is the first time an individual has won the award since 2001, when then-New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani was celebrated for his response to the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.
The American soldier earned the honor last year; in 2002, the magazine tapped Coleen Rowley, the FBI agent who wrote a critical memo on FBI intelligence failures, and Cynthia Cooper and Sherron Watkins, who blew the whistle on scandals at Enron and Worldcom.