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'TIME' Person of the Year

Aired December 22, 2002 - 10:00   ET


ANNOUNCER: This is a CNN special, "TIME" Person of The Year.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Person of The Year, it's not an award. It's a category. It's a newsmaker. It's the person who's had the most effect on the news. And I think this year it's clearly George W. Bush.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We must take the battle to the enemy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think you can make a strong case for Eminem. If he were a politician he would have the best most diverse demographics of anybody in American public life.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'd like to see Don Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney together.

DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: Yes, Saddam Hussein is as dangerous as we say.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hussein and Bush together have captivated the attentions of so many.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Before the election I thought Condoleezza Rice was a good choice.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The entertainment route would be Denzel Washington and Halle Berry.

JANICE C. SIMPSON, ASSISTANT MANAGING EDITOR: I'm sort of leaning towards Ken Lay, the former CEO of Enron.

KEN LAY, FORMER CEO, ENRON: I am asserting my Fifth Amendment Constitutional protection.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Big fan of the whistle blowers. The little person who's in the organization, who stands up and says, "You know what? Enough is enough."

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it should probably be either Osama bin Laden or a more generic, the terrorists.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The difficult part, the fun part, is trying to pick the person who, two, three, four, five years, 10 years from now doesn't make you look clueless.

CONNIE CHUNG, HOST: For 75 years, it's been the person who's affected us most, affected the events of our world, our lives, for better or worse.

Hello, I'm Connie Chung, and welcome to CNN's special presentation of "TIME" Magazine's Person of The Year. You know, it's never an easy decision and often it's controversial, but "TIME's" Person of The Year was never meant to be an award, no matter how coveted. There have been heroes and villains, everyone from presidents and peacemakers, to Adolf Hitler and Aytollah Khomeini.

Choosing the Person of The Year, the debates, the short list, all closely guarded, right up to the final decision. It's a process rarely witnessed beyond the halls of "TIME" Magazine, at least until now.


JIM KELLY, MANAGING EDITOR: You know, in no particular order, folks have recommended the suicide bomber, Ariel Sharon, Yasser Arafat, Osama bin Laden, Donald Rumsfeld, Condi Rice, Colin Powell, Dick Cheney, George Bush, all the above, none of the above and more than one person has actually suggested the Osbournes. So even the Osbournes are under consideration.

I thought we'd just have a frank conversation about who should or who shouldn't be Person of The Year this year. What do you think, Bill?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I think there's two stories probably. One is the economy and one is terrorism. So on the economy side, we don't really have a strong face.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There seems to be so much venom for the greedy CEO that has fallen from grace.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think terrorism is the bigger story. The thing of the year is the terrorist. That was my suggestion. My feeling is that the terrorist has defined basically every priority of this country and the western world over the last year.

KELLY: Danny, do you have any thoughts?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I thought of the whistle-blower the other day and that's growing on me. With Sherron Watkins possibly as the face, we can also include the one from the FBI and the one from WorldCom. And it gives us a grip. It gets -- you know, it gets to people's concerns about their money, and people's concerns about their security.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It sounds a little bit as if we're trying to come up with a reason not to pick the president. Especially after the result of the election, it's hard to make a case that the president isn't the most important Person of The Year, the biggest newsmaker.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Not real excited about reading another profile on Bush, personally.

KELLY: John?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I think we can solve that problem by having a really good profile. I mean I think...


KELLY: Kristine (ph), what do you think?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it's totally legit to do the power behind the power because more than in most administrations, Bush is like a chairman of the board and there is a really powerful crew behind him that's not only carrying out his ideas, but giving him the ideas. And it's their world view that's propelling what he's doing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I like the circle of advisers, especially probably Rice.

KELLY: You would do the war council, basically?


KELLY: Four, five people?


KELLY: I mean, I like group photographs. Just a challenge getting all the people to pose together, you know, oddly enough excites me as an editor.

STEVE KOEPP, DEPUTY MANAGING EDITOR: I think that the best way to understand George Bush this year is to understand the people behind him.

KELLY: It is true that one of the stories that hasn't been told as well as it might is the dynamic among those folks.

KOEPP: It's a very interesting dynamic. There are forces and there are counter forces.

COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: We talk to each other in open, candid environment where all old friends. There are no wars going on in the administration. There's good debate.


POWELL: No. Thank you.

CHRISTOPHER JOHN FARLEY, SENIOR EDITOR: I think that Colin Powell should be Man of The Year. He's taken tough challenges from Rumsfeld, Cheney and the other hawks in the White House.

KOEPP: This is a battle for George Bush in a way. He has strong opinions but there are people pushing him more toward a speedier war. RUMSFELD: It's less important to have unanimity than it is to be making the right decisions and doing the right thing even though at the outset it may seem lonesome.

POWELL: We want to work within the multilateral organization that has been designed for this purpose, the United Nations. And we hope the United Nations will meet its responsibilities at this time.

FARLEY: There's been some question as to how effective Powell really is, whether his voice has really been heard.

BUSH: We must take the battle to the enemy, disrupt its plans and confront the worst threats before they emerge.

FARLEY: We had a cover story on "TIME" that said, you know, basically where have you gone, Colin Powell? It turns out he's right there changing foreign policy.

POWELL: Toward the end of this week, I would hope that we could begin the process of writing the resolution.

FARLEY: He's managed to sort of carve out his own path as a path that the president has followed him on for some key decisions.

BUSH: The resolution approved today presents the Iraqi regime with a test, a final test.

FARLEY: They went to the United Nations and no one thought they'd get a vote in the Security Council that would go their way and be unanimous. They got a 15-0 vote. That's really a tribute to Powell.

KELLY: Johanna (ph) actually wrote shortly before 9/11 of last year, the "Whatever Happened To Colin Powell? Well, how do you feel about that?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't see that. I, on the other hand, was one of probably many who suggested Rumsfeld. First of all, he's certainly probably the most powerful secretary of defense in a really long time.

MICHAEL ELLIOTT, EDITOR AT LARGE: I'd like to do don Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney together. The combination of the two of them, I think, is unexplored terrain.

CHENEY: Yes, Saddam Hussein is as dangerous as we say he is.

RUMSFELD: Well, the last thing we want to see is a smoking gun. The gun smokes after it's been fired. The goal must be to stop such an action before it happens.

ELLIOTT: Cheney and Rumsfeld have been running together since they both went to the Nixon administration. And I think, you know, what started as a mentor/mentee relationship -- Rumsfeld is little older -- has changed the balance over the year. They obviously, now in the Bush administration have this relationship that is like an I am God, which protects the president from missiles thrown at him by those who take a rather softer view.

RUMSFELD: The issue is whether the Iraqi government has made a decision that the game is up and that it will comply with the United Nations resolutions and it will disclose what it has.

KOEPP: Between Cheney and Rumsfeld, these are driving forces in terms of pushing for war against Iraq.

FARLEY: I hope we don't go with the war council. I hope we don't go with a big group shot. I think again, that's kind of a cop- out. I think readers look at that and like go, "Come on, guys, settle on one."

KELLY: What do you think, Josh?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I mean I don't see how it's not George Bush, frankly. All of these are compelling arguments for people who have something to do with the news. But when you factor in all the stories, it's tied together through one guy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it will seem exceedingly unimaginative if "TIME" Magazine puts the standing president on the cover.

KELLY: Do you go with the person who most dominated the headlines of the year? Or do you go with someone who might promise a more bleak way in looking at the events of the year? Most years you can actually argue that the president of the United States, for better or worse, had the biggest impact on the news because it's the nature of the office.


ANNOUNCER: When we return with our special presentation of "TIME" Person of The Year, the debate continues.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If it hadn't been for Osama bin Laden we would not be talking about George Bush as Man of The Year.




KELLY: Nadia (ph), Saddam Hussein, pro or con, Person of The Year?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Con. I think I would be much more inclined to go with the terrorist versus Saddam Hussein.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think Saddam Hussein would be a bad choice this year, of the decade. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's Bush's team who crafted that new pro- active policy, its policy, which is the U.S. is going to go out and take these guys out before they do us any damage.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Somebody, who I think of Person of The Year, is that person or thing that influences everything else. It's like an engine that causes everybody else to react. I mean that's the terrorist, really.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Basically everything that we've talked about and done in government, including these last elections, were defined by the terrorist agenda. The thing of the year is the terrorist.

KELLY: If you're going to do the terrorist, why not do bin Laden?

JOHN CLOUD, STAFF WRITER: I think Osama bin Laden was the person who had the most effect on the news last year. I would have picked him last year. It would have been an unpopular choice, but I, you know, hope that people could remember that it's not an award.

LISA BEYER, SENIOR EDITOR: It was hard to put Osama bin Laden on the cover as Man of The Year. I mean the argument at the time was that we thought perhaps he was dead.

KELLY: I was one of those who thought he had died at Tora Bora. I mean we had a big piece about him played. He, right up in the last minute, was a contender.

ELLIOTT: If we did him this year, we would be accused, not without some reason, of having whimped out last year.

BEYER: I think that when we make our choice this year, we -- basically, we need to be somewhat blind to what we've done in the past and really judge the case on its merits.

FARLEY: The one argument I could see constructed is that bin Laden proved that he's a survivor and suddenly his voice is surfacing on the tape.

BEYER: Last year was a very big year for the terrorist. It was a big year for Osama bin Laden. But we've seen 12 months later that we're still very much concerned about these issues.

FARLEY: Suddenly, he or his operatives or people who are in sympathy with him, are, you know, still planning other kinds of operations perhaps in Bali, perhaps elsewhere.

BEYER: It should be the terrorist as opposed to Osama bin Laden because I think that what the last year has shown us is that the terrorist network has really sort of metastasized.

KELLY: Would we be doing the terrorist as a generic person if it wasn't for bin Laden?

BEYER: There's kind of a prejudice in the building against generics. I don't know why exactly.

KELLY: I don't like terrorist. To me, it seems a little like a cop-out.

BEYER: There have been good examples in the past where we have used a generic. For example, after World War II, we had the American fighting man. At a certain point in the '70s, we had the American woman. At a certain point in the '60s, I think we had the American middle class. At one point we had American youth in the, I think, again in the '60s.

And I think when you look back on those choices, they really hold up very well. They really sort of capture the defining moment in time. And I think that 20 years down the line, you know, the choice of the terrorist in 2002 will similarly hold up.

KELLY: For me, one very strong candidate is Coleen Rowley, this FBI agent out of Minneapolis. We'd never heard of her since last April, May. She writes an extraordinary memo. She is thrust most unwillingly into a spotlight. I mean she's a big runner and has absolutely refused to participate in any story that we wrote. She's a -- she gets you a lot of things.

BEYER: But doesn't that make her sort of mentor of the year and not necessarily Person of The Year?

KELLY: Part of Person of The Year is you want to tell a story through that person. And there's a lot of things that Rowley gets you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She represents accountability, right? I mean and that's what all the other people who have called out the CEOs represent. And I mean I think that -- I think she does tell a bigger story.

KELLY: Do people here think that we're more worried about the economy than terrorism?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Day to day, yes.

KELLY: Day to day.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No. In a very personal way, about jobs, about can they afford colleges? Can they keep their homes?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But your odds of being killed by a terrorist, they are incredibly small. But your odds of losing your job or watching your 401(k) vaporize in front of your eyes are large. They hit all of us.

JOSHUA MARTIN, MANAGING EDITOR, "TIME".com: So many people are hurting and I don't think that you can really underestimate that when you go to pick the Person of The Year.

SIMPSON: I'm sort of leaning toward Ken Lay, the former CEO of Enron. LAY: I respectfully ask you not to draw negative inference because I am asserting my Fifth Amendment Constitutional protection on instruction of council.

SIMPSON: This year, we had just the catastrophe of these corporate executives who, from inside, struck American capitalism a really severe blow, a blow that we didn't expect.

And I think there's a vehemence towards the CEOs out there, who people think, the greedy CEO, the slimy CEO who took their -- you know, who is sort of responsible. And I think Kozlowski embodies that, the umbrella holder and the Nantucket get away and all these things that says like, "What is this guy doing? And that's my money or that could be my money. Is my CEO doing that?"

SIMPSON: I thought for a while about Eliot Spitzer, who's the New York attorney general.

FARLEY: Eliot Spitzer really helps put a face on some of the economic news we've seen this year.

ELIOT SPITZER, NEW YORK ATTORNEY GENERAL: American investors have said we don't trust the market right now. We've got to change that because if we can't improve confidence, nobody will benefit.

FARLEY: He's the one guy that, I think, went after corporate criminals in a tough way, in a visible way, and in an effective and creative way.

SPITZER: How are you?

SIMPSON: When most families in this country at any rate sit down and talk at the dinner table or in the car on the run, what they're talking about is the economy. And so my vote's still there.

KELLY: Do you think the economy is going to be worse a year from now?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, it will be better.


KELLY: Well, that's a good reason not to do an economy related Person of The Year.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But people are going to be reading this.

KELLY: Yes, but part of Person of The Year is how does it look a year from now, three years from now, five years from now more so than any other cover we do during the year.


ANNOUNCER: When we return, the field narrows and a decision is made.


KELLY: Who makes the final decision? Well, luckily, it's me.




KELLY: From where I sit, there are two great stories this year. One has to do with terror and Iraq, and the other has to do with the economy. So what I did was put two teams in motion. One team is going to focus on the terror/Iraq part and come up with two or three candidates for Person or People of The Year. And the other team is going focus on the economy. And this is one of the teams.

You've spent some time with Spitzer. What is he like?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He -- you know he's the real deal. I mean he -- the guy loves the law.

KELLY: We quickly settled on Eliot Spitzer, the attorney general of New York, who's blown the whistle on these companies, as a good candidate.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I honestly think he loves good law. He loves trying to do something -- do the right thing.

KELLY: Now, Mandy, you have spent some time with three very important women this year -- Coleen Rowley of the FBI and two women who blew the whistle on Enron and WorldCom. It was Sherron Watkins of Enron.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And Cynthia Cooper of WorldCom.

KELLY: And you managed to get all three women in the same room in Minneapolis. How did it go?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was very painful and slow, but once we got...

KELLY: The proof here is that we got all three together in Minneapolis where they sat down and for several hours, talked about what it was like to be a woman blowing the whistle on an enormous company, or institution like the FBI. And it's a wonderful story.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Halfway through this breakfast we had, Coleen jumped up, the FBI woman, jumped up and she's sort of cheering and she pointed at Sherron from Enron and she said, "Everything you say, I agree with. I love it!" And so there were lots of moments like that, where they really seemed to be encouraged by one another.

KELLY: Is it a coincidence that the three most prominent whistle blowers this year are women?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: One of them said, you know, we're the outsiders. And they don't all agree to that but I think it was Sherron Watkins who said, "No, I think being a woman has something to do with it, being the truth teller."

KELLY: Do you think these people were that recognizable and does it matter, pictures, covers, you know, what looks particularly compelling is obviously a factor.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It kind of reminds me of the untouchables, you know. They look like a force.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it's a really strong, surprising cover for us to do.

KELLY: But at the end, you have to be true to the year and some fashion. We pretty much quickly decided that it should be the president and someone else. We talked about the president and Saddam Hussein, but decided that wasn't quite right. So far he is basically playing his cards there in Baghdad. For a variety of reasons we didn't think Rumsfeld or Powell or Rice were quite right. We decided that Cheney was a really interesting choice to focus on.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When you take Bush's instincts that the war on terror is the most important cause of his presidency and Cheney's sort of intellectual moorings for how we ought to go about fighting it and you put them together, that's where you get the Bush Doctrine, that's where you get this very forward leaning foreign policy posture they're taking.

BUSH: We expect Mr. Saddam Hussein to disarm. Yesterday's document was not encouraging.

KOEPP: Cheney is such a demon once he determines this is how to make the world safe, that, you know, nothing will stop him. And he just works with such quiet power behind the scenes to get things done. And I think that's what's driving events here.

ELLIOTT: I think that this argument give Cheney too much credit and gives Bush too little.

KELLY: I think the President of the United States has tremendous power, but other things do happen. There are other people who help propel history forward. In this particular case, I think it will be surprising that we have linked the war on terror with the problems with the economy. But that's just the way it happened because Coleen Rowley blew the whistle in the FBI.

COLEEN ROWLEY, FBI whistle-blower: We need to streamline the FBI's bureaucracy in order to more effectively combat terrorism.

KELLY: Sherron Watkins blew the whistle on Enron.

SHERRON WATKINS, ENRON whistle-blower: Enron is a very arrogant place. There were swindlers in the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) to close.

KELLY: And Cynthia Cooper blew the whistle on WorldCom. The courage of these three women in fighting the institutions that they work for is so enthralling to the editors of time that we chose those three women as Persons of The Year.

PRISCILLA PAINTON, EXECUTIVE EDITOR: There are very few times when an editor gets a chance to look at a picture and literally have chills go down your back because you think, oh my goodness, this is an amazing moment. These are amazing women and they stand for an amazing story.

ROWLEY: Please, please.

AMANDA RIPLEY, STAFF WRITER, "THE WHISTLE-BLOWERS": They, all three, did not ever want to be in public spotlight. All three of them, when they initially wrote their memos or their letters, intended for that to be private and for their names never to get out.

PAINTON: These were women who wanted nothing else but to make the places they worked better.

RIPLEY: I think they had a sort of -- a real curiosity, a real interest in meeting one another because I think each of them in their different ways felt very isolated in going through this, felt they were reinventing the wheel. And to find out there's somebody else going through it was kind of reassuring.

PAINTON: In the year after 9/11 we look to our leaders, the people in Washington. But what's interesting about the year we've just been through is as the voices of reform, the voices who have come forward and said, "We can fix this, we have to fix this, listen to us," have come from the bottom.

KELLY: I think the story is it shows you that you don't have to be a fireman. You don't have to be a world leader to bring about change. I mean courage displayed by these three women is available to all of us. And if we choose to display it in our lives, we can make a difference.

RIPLEY: Putting them on the cover shows us that in the midst of so much depressing news, there is a flip side. They are evidence that calamity is not always inevitable.

KELLY: When people look back on 2002, they will see a year marked by two events more than any other and that is the war on terror and America's loss of confidence in corporate America. I think five years from now, the choice of these three women whistle blowers will hold up and look smarter.



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