Will 'Superb' Al Gore Win Time's Person of the Year?

Time magazine's managing editor hinted on Monday's "Today" show that Al Gore would be a "superb choice" for recipient of the publication's 2007 Person of the Year award. Richard Stengel agreed with co-host Meredith Vieira that the former vice president was on the "short list" and extolled, "He's had an extraordinary year. He's had an extraordinary influence. There was a real tipping point this year in terms of people being conscious of the environment. So, he would be a superb choice."

On Time's website, the magazine is currently ranking the potential of the seven "short list" candidates. Each person receives a pro and con as to why that individual might or might not win. And while General David Petraeus's "con" is that he can be seen as "excessively protective" of President Bush, Gore's negative is simply that much of his "green works" was completed in 2006. However, the "pro" touted impact: "The Nobel Prize ensures that a generation of children will envision his face while being scolded for leaving a room without turning off the lights." The winner of Time's "Person of the Year" will be announced live on Wednesday's "Today."

Stengel, it should be noted is a former advisor and speechwriter to Democratic presidential candidate Bill Bradley. The MRC has documented his bias throughout the years. In June of 1999, he famously derided the communist-exposing Whittaker Chambers as a "nasty piece of work" and wrote that "nobody likes a snitch."

Co-host Vieira did mention that General David Petraeus is in the running and that the "controversial troop surge in Iraq may actually be working." But she also hyped the fact that "a lot of people think Al Gore is going to be the choice."

A transcript of the segment, which aired at 7:44am on December 17, follows:

MEREDITH VIEIRA: It is one of the most anticipated announcements of the year. Since 1927, Time magazine has selected a man, woman, group, place or even idea to honor as person of the year. The criteria for the choice, someone that, quote, "for better or for worse, has done the most to influence the events of the year." And this year, the field is wide open. There have been presidents, dictators, and leaders in the world of business. Even you have made the cut. So who might grace the cover this year? Could it be author J.K. Rowling, who after seven installments of the wildly popular Harry Potter books, had her final Potter chapter? Or Steve Jobs, chairman and CEO of Apple, which continues to dominate new realms of technology with inventions like the iPhone. Or General David Petraeus, whose controversial troop surge in Iraq may actually be working? Other choices, former Vice President Al Gore, who won the Nobel Peace prize this year for his lifelong dedication to the environment. Or could it be one of the many world leaders who made headlines this year, like Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad or Russian President Vladimir Putin, who tightened his grip on power? How about Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, trying to broker a Middle East peace? Or Chinese President Hu Jintao, who is transforming his country into a 21st century superpower. So who or what will it be this year? We'll find out later this week. And the answer lies in the brain of this man, Richard Stengel, Time's managing editor. Richard, good morning.

RICHARD STENGEL: That's a scary concept

VIEIRA: Well, ultimately, it's you who picks the person of the year. But explain the process to us a little bit.

STENGEL: Well, we consult with all our correspondents around the world, domestic and, and internationally. We poll otherwise men and women and former persons of the year, for example, Henry Kissinger. And then we kind of get a brain trust together to talk about it. But, you know, it's not a scientific choice. There's no mathematical equation. It's about making a judgment about who did have the most influence and the most importance.

DAVID GREGORY: Rick, you went with this idea of the concept last year, the user-generated media. Do you feel more of an inclination now to go back to an individual?

STENGEL: Yes, I do. And it will be an individual this year.

VIEIRA: Did it backfire? Picking "you" last year.

STENGEL: No, and it was a wonderful choice, very popular among readers. I think you heard more about person of the year last year than any time in history but I want to get back to that, kind of, core idea of choosing one individual who makes a difference. And that is what Time has talked about for years and years, how individuals change history.

VIEIRA: Core rhymes with Gore. And a lot of people think Al Gore is going to be the choice.

STENGEL: He's had an extraordinary year. He's had an extraordinary influence. There was a real tipping point this year in terms of people being conscious of the environment. So, he would be a superb choice.

VIEIRA: He's on the short list?

STENGEL: He's on the short list.

GREGORY: It is interesting to look at some of these foreign leaders and how they drive international behavior. So Ahmadinejad and the pall he's casting in the Middle East or Hu Jintao and the rise of China, how have you discussed all of this?

STENGEL: Well, when you look at, for example, Hu Jintao and Vladimir Putin of Russia, these are giants on the world stage. Their countries are enormously important. I mean, Russia is influencing the way everything is going on in the world. China has the Olympics this year. I mean, they both would be very, very strong choices.

GREGORY: And Vladimir could be, you know, could be in the future because he's apparently not leaving power.

STENGEL: That's right. He's succeeding himself.

VIEIRA: Well, isn't that one of the rules about this, it's not just who made a difference this year for better or worse but the possible impacts in the following year as well?

STENGEL: Well, I think so. I don't want it to be retrospective. Anybody who gets chosen is somebody who will continue to have influence in the future. It's not just about what you did in the past year.

VIEIRA: And should I be offended that we're not on the short list?

STENGEL: Well, it won't be you guys again this year.

VIEIRA: Richard Stengel, thank you so much. If you'd like to vote for your top choice from the short list, you can do it on our website Todayshow.com. And on Wednesday Richard Stengel will be back to reveal this year's winner for Person of the Year.

Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock is the senior news analyst for the Media Research Center and a contributing editor for NewsBusters.org