The Corner

Politics & Policy

Time’s Person of the Year Shortlist

I hate Time’s Person of the Year crap, even though I will hypocritically concede that it often provides useful column fodder. On the merits, I think it’s pretty obvious that Trump should win, though you could make a case for President Xi and the #MeToo movement.

But what I find interesting about the just-released shortlist is that picking anyone else on the list — including Xi Jinping and #MeToo — would amount, to one extent or another, to a troll operation of the president.

Part of that is because Trump believes he deserves it more than anyone else, and he cares a lot about the Time gimmick. The most obvious example is Robert Mueller. To date, there is no reason to give him the title, other than for fan service to Trump-hating liberals and others emotionally invested in the Mueller probe. It’s conceivable that next year Mueller would deserve it. But not yet.

The #MeToo thing would also be interpreted by many as an indictment of the president, given the charges against him. The Dreamers, likewise, would be a political shot. Unlike the #MeTooers, the Dreamers themselves haven’t really done anything special in 2017. They are simply a politically loaded prop for a larger argument.

Jeff Bezos has done some newsworthy things in the last year, but his real relevance is that Trump hates him and that many of his supporters are determined to make him the next George Soros. Picking Colin Kaepernick would be another example of fan service and amount to little more than returning fire in the NFL kneeling controversy Trump loves so much. Patty Jenkins, director of Wonder Woman, would be the weakest troll, and arguably the most undeserving — but also safest — pick.

What I wonder, however, is how Trump might respond if Xi, Kim Jong Un, or Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman got it. The administration has a lot at stake with all three men, and Trump’s reaction, even if just on Twitter, could complicate things if it goes too far. The president has a long track record of resenting people who steal the limelight from him.

I have no idea who Time will pick, though I would guess #MeToo wins, because that story pings all the pleasure centers of a Time editor’s brain.

Jonah Goldberg, a senior editor of National Review and the author of Suicide of the West, holds the Asness Chair in Applied Liberty at the American Enterprise Institute.

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