'Today' Previews Final Nominees for Time's Person of the Year

Time's managing editor Richard Stengel joined Meredith, Matt, Ann and Al, on Monday's Today, to play a guessing game of who will become his magazine's Person of the Year and praised one of the finalists, Nancy Pelosi, as the "strongest Speaker of the House in decades," who has "piloted what is probably the most important legislation in decades."

Others making the final list included Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, General Stanley McChrystal, the Chinese (not the American) worker and of course Barack Obama, as Today co-anchor Meredith Vieira pointed out, "was the choice last year," and pressed, "Have you ever had that, where somebody has won twice and consecutively?"

The following is the full transcript of the segment as it was aired on the December 14 Today show:

MEREDITH VIEIRA: Time magazine has picked its Person of the Year since 1927. The choice can sometimes be surprising, sometimes controversial, but always interesting. And we're gonna reveal this year's live, right here on Today, on Wednesday. But first a sneak peek at 2009's short list. Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House, one of the most politically-powerful women in U.S. history, she's helping to spearhead the push for health care reform. Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple and a visionary whose technology empire is revolutionizing power and media and communication. Ben Bernanke, chairman of the Federal Reserve. In his first term he's taken on a global economic crisis, vast unemployment and banking failures. Usain Bolt, the Jamaican runner who's unbelievable speed continues to break records in track and field, including his own. General Stanley McChrystal, the top commander in Afghanistan, working to make the war there a success. The Chinese worker, not an individual, but a growing influential group in one of the world's most powerful economies. And President Barack Obama, who was Time's Person of the Year in 2008. And Richard Stengel is Time's managing editor. Richard, good morning to you.

RICHARD STENGEL, TIME: Good morning. You're all here!

VIEIRA: Nice to see you.

ANN CURRY: We gotta get this out of you.

STENGEL: The whole gang.

(cross talk)

VIEIRA: So Barack Obama is on the short list again. He was the choice last year. Have you ever had that where somebody has won twice and consecutively.

[On screen headline: "The Final Seven, Who Will Be Time's Person Of The Year?"]

STENGEL: Well we've had people who've won multiple times, FDR. And certainly Barack Obama has been the prime mover behind so much happening this year. From the economic rescue to the health care plan-

VIEIRA: Afghanistan.

STENGEL: -to winning the Nobel Peace Prize, Afghanistan.

CURRY: Sounds like you're heading in that direction possibly?

STENGEL: Yes.

LAUER: But he always does that. He always leads us in one direction only to pull the rug out from under us.

AL ROKER: Yeah.

LAUER: I'm looking at these people like Nancy Pelosi, Ben Bernanke and one name that jumps out at me is Stanley McChrystal. He's the guy, the architect in Afghanistan right now.

STENGEL: Yeah.

LAUER: He's the one who's called for these additional troops. And I think I'm leaning in that direction.

CURRY: Me, too. I'm with you.

VIEIRA: Interesting.

STENGEL: Are you all, are you all leaning in that direction?

VIEIRA: No I'm not.

STENGEL: Here's the thing about McChrystal. He really has single-handedly, I think, reshaped the Afghanistan policy. Right? He came in, he looked at it and he said, "Look we need more troops. We could actually win this thing." And certainly Barack Obama pivoted, as a result of what McChrystal did.

CURRY: Okay well it sounds like we're leaning in that direction.

LAUER: No, again, he's all smoke and mirrors.

CURRY: Okay but what about, you mentioned earlier, you mentioned Nancy Pelosi. What makes her a top contender?

STENGEL: Look she's the first woman Speaker of the House. In some ways she may be the strongest Speaker of the House in decades. She has piloted what is probably the most important legislation in decades through the House. I mean she's a really, really interesting and pivotal figure.

CURRY: I don't think he's going with her because I see the body language. I'm checking you out.

ROKER: Oh!

STENGEL: I might be trying to dissuade you from thinking-

ROKER: Could be. Could be a little fake-a-roo. Now you guys have sometimes really thrown us a curve. Like the year you had the mirrored cover-

STENGEL: Yes.

ROKER: It was "You the reader." Why do you have Chinese worker on there?

STENGEL: Well you know China, almost every year, is so important in the global economy and this was the year of the economy. In fact, if China had not had 8 percent growth, as it had, which was due to all those workers, the world economy would be in a much worse place. So it's a way of looking at China's influence on the world. Which is incalculable, really.

VIEIRA: Do you make the final decision? Or is it a vote and whoever gets the most votes.

STENGEL: Well we consult with all of our correspondents and writers and, and previous People of the Year.

VIEIRA: Do you make the final decision?

STENGEL: Ultimately yes I do, I do.

(laughter)

CURRY: You make the final decision? It sounds like, sounds like-

VIEIRA: Yeah he's not gonna tell you. I think Bernanke. I'm going with Bernanke.

CURRY: Okay.

VIEIRA: And you're going, you're going with?

LAUER: No I'm gonna hold my opinion.

VIEIRA: C'mon!

CURRY: It's okay.

LAUER: We still have tomorrow.

STENGEL: You can guess again tomorrow. That's right.

ROKER: Jury is still out.

VIEIRA: Yeah alright. Rick Stengel thanks very much.

STENGEL: Great to be here.

VIEIRA: Again we'll reveal Time's Person of the Year on Wednesday morning, live here on Today.

Geoffrey Dickens
Geoffrey Dickens
Geoffrey Dickens is the Deputy Research Director at the Media Research Center.