Why Is Bush Time's Person of the Year?

This is a partial transcript of "The Big Story With John Gibson," Dec. 20, 2004, that has been edited for clarity.

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GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In 2004, the United States grew in prosperity, enhanced our security and served the cause of freedom and peace. Our duties continue in the new year.


JOHN GIBSON, HOST: President Bush is "Time" magazine's Person of the Year. It is the second time "Time" has picked him.

I'm joined now by "Time's" senior correspondent, Doug Waller (search).

Mr. Waller, the big question. So, why is President Bush "Time" Person of the Year?

Why him? Why now?

DOUG WALLER, SENIOR CORRESPONDENT, TIME MAGAZINE: Well, after the election, it was really an obvious choice for us. Politics dominated the news for 2004.

I suppose if 70,000 voters in Ohio had voted differently, George Bush may have been one of the also-rans in the issue, and a different face would have gone on the cover. It could have been John Kerry.

But the fact was, he won the election and he did it his way. He stuck to his guns, literally and figuratively. And in terms of impact on this country and the impact in 2004, it was a clear choice for us.

GIBSON: "Time" has been — well, I mean, it's certainly taken its shots at President Bush.

Does this — is part of the editorial process on this making a judgment about how well he did his job, not merely that he kept it?

WALLER: It's not so much how well he did his job, but really the impact he had on events for the year. And the voters decided that he did his job well enough to be re-elected for another term.

What was striking to us was that he ran a campaign that really ran against conventional wisdom. Instead of trying to tack to the center to attract swing voters, he stuck to his base and basically told voters, this campaign is a test of leadership. The choice is over leadership.

Even though you may not agree with me on everything, you know, you'll know where I stand on these issues. And the voters voted him in.

GIBSON: Doug, along those lines, do you — does "Time," or do you — believe that President Bush and Karl Rove (search) have sort of realigned the electorate, that it's become more conservative because of President Bush and because of the way Karl Rove ran Bush's campaign?

WALLER: It's hard to say whether they realigned it. They recognize, though, that the country has become more conservative.

I think the key test will be in 2005 on whether, you know, Bush can really carry through with any type of mandate, whether the country is ready for Social Security reform, tax reform and, more importantly, whether Congress is ready for them.

I think you can probably answer that question toward the — this time in 2005.

GIBSON: By the way, who are the other candidates that didn't make the cut?

WALLER: Well, Karl Rove was clearly one we discussed. And there's a big piece in the magazine on him. And he was really the only other one.

And I don't think there was ever any, you know, serious debate that, you know, he should be on the cover. I think we all coalesced around President Bush.

Rove was the architect of the mechanics of the election victory. But, clearly, the themes and the directions were set by this president.

GIBSON: Nobody like usama bin Laden or Saddam Hussein (search) or, you know, Kim Jong-Il or Jacques Chirac, or any of those characters on the world stage?

WALLER: No one else did. I mean, we do have a piece on Abu Musab al-Zarqawi (search). But this — he was never really considered any candidate for Person of the Year. I mean, he certainly had a tremendous effect in Iraq as the insurgent there, the principal insurgent.

GIBSON: You know, one of the stories in the magazine is Joe Klein's piece, in which he describes Bush's administration as the Benetton presidency, that, of all things, President Bush — lots of people of color.

Why didn't he get credit for that before, do you think?

WALLER: Well, I think he — the press recognizes these things after the victory. And it's kind of the proof — the proof is in the pudding.

In this particular case, there were many in the media who thought that, you know, John Kerry and surge and the — actually, even on election night, we thought he might have it, too.

But it turned out that we didn't pay enough attention to the base that Bush was turning out, that he had a much better get-out-the-vote operation. And I don't think we recognized enough that the, you know, the country basically agreed with his leadership style.

GIBSON: Doug Waller of "Time" magazine. President Bush, Person of the Year.

Doug, thanks very much. Appreciate it.

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