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Jewish World Review Dec. 27, 2001 /12 Teves, 5762

Matt Towery

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Rudy, the 'perfect excuse'? -- TIME magazine's choice for Person of the Year was well deserved, but a perfect excuse to ignore a more deserving recipient.

No doubt New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani has earned a place in our hearts and our history books for his handling of the tragic events of Sept. 11. The alleged debate over consideration to acknowledge Osama bin Laden's impact in the year 2001 was probably merited, but with a most reasoned and well-received result. At any other time, Giuliani would be a perfect choice. But in this particular instance, he served as the perfect excuse.

An excuse not to reward President George Bush.

Follow the reasoning. Over the years, few national news organizations have wanted to honor Republicans unless absolutely necessary. In this particular instance, the editors at Time were able to avoid giving Bush his due by honoring another Republican -- thus appearing to be impartial.

Of course, this decision to honor the New York mayor over our president was probably well intended. Besides, George W. was Time's choice for 2000. So, let's just chalk their decision up to a difference of opinion, and give our own 2001 Person of the Year award to President George W. Bush.


Because the man who just about a year ago seemed destined to be a four-year bewildered and unaccepted leader rapidly became destined for presidential greatness. And it didn't all start on Sept. 11.

Bush began his presidency with a domestic agenda that built itself on the creation of bipartisan relationships, and that resulted in real live legislation. Not an easy thing to get out of Washington, D.C.

Before the attack on America redefined our world's agenda, Bush had already passed tax relief and other key reforms. He had deftly dealt with issues such as federal funding for stem cell research. And he had quickly won the admiration of international leaders, from Russia's Putin to England's Blair.

But the past few months gave the rest of the world an opportunity to see George W.'s potential for greatness.

The full gravity of the situation facing Bush on that fateful day in September is just now coming to light. Insiders suggest that within hours of the attacks, Bush was made aware of the likelihood that biological weapons might be used, that portable nuclear weapons might be in the wrong hands, and that more attacks of one nature or another were virtually certain.

With all of this knowledge, Bush remained cool-headed and determined. He exhibited all of the "let's get the facts and act decisively" style of JFK during the Cuban missile crisis. Bush's post-Sept. 11 speech before Congress had the dramatic effect of FDR after Pearl Harbor. And his impromptu remarks made at ground zero to the firefighters and other emergency personnel, in which he shouted out, "I can hear you," reminded many of the charismatic style of a "give-'em-hell" Harry Truman, mixed together with a touch of Ronald Reagan.

Let's face it, just a year ago, even the most devoted of Republicans weren't so sure about former President George Bush's boy playing the same role as his father had just a decade earlier. "Bush-Lite" some called him.

We don't hear anyone calling George W. Bush that now. Whether it's guiding Barbara Walters through a holiday visit to the White House or issuing a stern warning to pro-Palestinian terrorists, George W. Bush has developed the style and confidence that many past presidents have lacked on the very day that they left office.

No one denies the right of a great institution such as Time to pick and choose their top dog for the year. And there can be no question that the Big Apple's leader is deserving of top honors for his heroic efforts, not just in the past few months, but over the eight years that he turned New York City around and made it a safe and desirable place in which to live or visit.

But the true Person of the Year recognition should go to Bush. So here's a perfect plan: Give Bush Time's Person of the Year award for 2001, and make Rudy the GOP nominee for president of the United States after Bush serves out his two terms. That way, everybody's a winner.

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© 2001, Creators Syndicate