Twerk Beat Work in Time’s Person of the Year Finalists

Let’s have a talk about which high-profile women made the top 10 — and which didn’t.

LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 24: Singer Miley Cyrus performs onstage during the 2013 American Music Awards at Nokia Theatre L.A. Live on November 24, 2013 in Los Angeles, California. 
National Journal
Major Garrett
Add to Briefcase
See more stories about...
Major Garrett
Dec. 10, 2013, 5:15 p.m.

Me­dia cri­ti­cism and cul­tur­al cri­tiques are not the game and not the pur­pose of this column.

But the Nel­son Man­dela en­co­mi­ums have run their le­git­im­ate and laud­at­ory course. Wash­ing­ton’s budget deal is so pid­dling, it scarcely de­serves com­ment.

Today we learn the iden­tity of Time‘s Per­son of the Year. As a cul­tur­al lode­star, the POY has, like Time it­self, lost some of its luster. Time is not the in­tel­lec­tu­al ful­crum it was for elites or the middle class who as­pired to someday join them. Still, it is a mir­ror for Amer­ica cul­tur­ally and polit­ic­ally, and the POY be­comes part of each year’s time cap­sule. I don’t care who the POY will be this year nearly as much as I am dis­mayed about who made the list of 10 fi­nal­ists. And I’m as­ton­ished and in­furi­ated over those who did not make the list.

Three wo­men are among the 10:

  • Edie Wind­sor, who filed suit against a fed­er­al as­sess­ment of $363,000 in es­tate taxes be­cause her de­ceased part­ner and spouse (via a mar­riage in Canada) was a wo­man, Thea Spy­er, not a man. Wind­sor’s case made it to the Su­preme Court and led to the over­turn­ing of the De­fense of Mar­riage Act;
  • Kath­leen Se­beli­us, the Health and Hu­man Ser­vices sec­ret­ary, former gov­ernor and in­sur­ance com­mis­sion­er of Kan­sas, and the per­son at the helm of the checkered im­ple­ment­a­tion of Pres­id­ent Obama’s Af­ford­able Care Act;

Let’s stip­u­late what Time knows but will not ad­mit. Cyr­us is not a ser­i­ous con­tender for POY. She is click bait, a bona fide celebrity with uni­ver­sal name re­cog­ni­tion who has gen­er­ated for Time wave upon wave (more than 340,000) of curi­ous web­site clicks. In this, Cyr­us is a Time gim­mick, a flashy and ex­ploit­able Web com­mod­ity trans­par­ently un­fit for POY status and un­am­bigu­ously graf­ted onto the list for com­mer­cial reas­ons.

Who should have been on the list in­stead of the former Han­nah Montana?

How about Janet Yel­len? Yel­len is the first wo­man nom­in­ated chair­wo­man (as this column in­dic­ated she would be in Ju­ly) of the Fed­er­al Re­serve. That means she will be­come the Fed’s first fe­male chair, something one would have to ima­gine caught Time’s eye. Wait, Yel­len didn’t do any­thing this year worthy of POY mer­it? Vice chair­man of the Fed is in­suf­fi­cient, I sup­pose. As vice chair, Yel­len has par­ti­cip­ated in all de­cisions about qual­it­at­ive eas­ing, the Fed’s un­pre­ced­en­ted and con­tro­ver­sial monthly pur­chas­ing of $85 bil­lion in Treas­ury bonds. As the new Fed chair, Yel­len will have to un­wind qual­it­at­ive eas­ing, and her ap­proach and ex­plan­a­tion will trans­form the eco­nom­ic land­scape and the postre­ces­sion status of the Fed. Time has of­ten used POY status to dis­cuss fig­ures at the cusp of his­tory — cer­tainly that’s why Hitler was chosen in 1939 and Ayatol­lah Khomeini in 1979. Yel­len has already made his­tory and is un­ques­tion­ably on the cusp of eco­nom­ic his­tory that will re­ver­ber­ate across all in­come sec­tors in the U.S. and send shivers through the world eco­nomy. But Yel­len is no Mi­ley Cyr­us.

How about Mary Barra? She was named CEO of Gen­er­al Mo­tors on Tues­day, the first wo­man ever to lead an Amer­ic­an auto­maker. Well, she was just named, so Time could not have known who she was, right? Wrong. Barra has for months been on the short list to re­place Dan Aker­son as chief ex­ec­ut­ive and was most re­cently in charge of glob­al product de­vel­op­ment and pur­chas­ing; since 2010, she over­saw glob­al en­gin­eer­ing, design, and qual­ity, and has been cred­ited with sim­pli­fy­ing and im­prov­ing GM design by re­du­cing from three to one the num­ber of pro­ject su­per­vising en­gin­eers. GM’s rise from near-bank­ruptcy (thanks to a gov­ern­ment bail­out that will leave the tax­pay­ers $10 bil­lion in ar­rears) is a fas­cin­at­ing story of in­dustry policy. Barra’s been with GM for 33 years, and her role in the com­pany’s re­bound would be among the most read­able and fas­cin­at­ing nar­rat­ives about lead­er­ship and busi­ness guile in re­cent memory. But Barra is no Mi­ley Cyr­us.

How about Sheryl Sand­berg? Wheth­er you love or hate Sand­berg’s book, Lean In, you can­not deny it triggered a de­bate about how wo­men suc­ceed; how the men in their lives try to help them suc­ceed (of­ten at so­ci­et­al costs Sand­berg was the first to seri­ally de­nounce); how in­grained (and leg­al) cor­por­ate habits still tilt against wo­men’s ad­vance­ment; and how wo­men them­selves of­ten de­feat them­selves be­fore the com­pet­it­ive cor­por­ate games be­gin. Sand­berg, of course, is more than an au­thor of a best-selling book. She’s the chief op­er­at­ing of­ficer of Face­book and a former vice pres­id­ent of glob­al on­line sales at Google. Sand­berg was also a protégé of, and vo­cal ad­voc­ate for, Lawrence Sum­mers over Janet Yel­len (see above) as next Fed chair. Talk about a sub­plot. But Sand­berg is no Mi­ley Cyr­us.

How about wo­men in the Sen­ate? Twenty. It’s the largest num­ber of wo­men in the Sen­ate in Amer­ic­an his­tory, and their col­lect­ive ac­tion is chan­ging the way the Sen­ate works and the way polit­ics and le­gis­la­tion move. Four wo­men are power­ful com­mit­tee chairs — Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., of the Ag­ri­cul­ture Com­mit­tee, Di­anne Fein­stein, D-Cal­if., of the In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee, Patty Mur­ray, D-Wash., of the Budget Com­mit­tee, and Bar­bara Box­er, D-Cal­if., of En­vir­on­ment and Pub­lic Works. Nev­er be­fore have wo­men in the Sen­ate wiel­ded this much le­gis­lat­ive power. But the 20 sen­at­ors are not Mi­ley Cyr­us.

How about Sen. Kirstin Gil­librand? Gil­librand, D-N.Y., is not a com­mit­tee chair, but her push to change the mil­it­ary’s ap­proach to ac­cus­a­tions of sexu­al as­sault (tak­ing de­cisions on in­vest­ig­a­tion and pro­sec­u­tion out of the hands of com­mand­ers) has rattled the Pentagon and changed the course of the le­gis­lat­ive de­bate. Gil­librand’s ap­proach may not pre­vail dur­ing Sen­ate reau­thor­iz­a­tion of the Na­tion­al De­fense Au­thor­iz­a­tion Act, but it has already come closer than any­one thought pos­sible and el­ev­ated the is­sue of mil­it­ary rape in­to a story of ac­count­ab­il­ity, justice, and re­spect up and down the ranks of an all-vo­lun­teer force. But Gil­librand is no Mi­ley Cyr­us.

Re­view­ing the missed op­por­tun­it­ies on Time‘s top 10 fi­nal­ists for POY, I’m re­minded of this Han­nah Montana meta­phor: “It’s like “walkin’ bare­foot through a field of cows after their morn­in’ sit down!”

Very true, Han­nah. I don’t blame you or Mi­ley. I blame Time. Maybe oth­ers will, too.

The au­thor is Na­tion­al Journ­al Cor­res­pond­ent-at-Large and Chief White House Cor­res­pond­ent for CBS News. He is also a dis­tin­guished fel­low at the George Wash­ing­ton Uni­versity School of Me­dia and Pub­lic Af­fairs.

What We're Following See More »
TRUMP CONTINUES TO LAWYER UP
Kasowitz Out, John Dowd In
2 days ago
THE LATEST

As the Russia investigation heats up, "the role of Marc E. Kasowitz, the president’s longtime New York lawyer, will be significantly reduced. Mr. Trump liked Mr. Kasowitz’s blunt, aggressive style, but he was not a natural fit in the delicate, politically charged criminal investigation. The veteran Washington defense lawyer John Dowd will take the lead in representing Mr. Trump for the Russia inquiry."

Source:
ALSO INQUIRES ABOUT PARDON POWER
Trump Looking to Discredit Mueller
2 days ago
THE LATEST

President Trump's attorneys are "actively compiling a list of Mueller’s alleged potential conflicts of interest, which they say could serve as a way to stymie his work." They plan to argued that Mueller is going outside the scope of his investigation, in inquiring into Trump's finances. They're also playing small ball, highlighting "donations to Democrats by some of" Mueller's team, and "an allegation that Mueller and Trump National Golf Club in Northern Virginia had a dispute over membership fees when Mueller resigned as a member in 2011." Trump is said to be incensed that Mueller may see his tax returns, and has been asking about his power to pardon his family members.

Source:
INCLUDES NY PROBE INTO MANAFORT
Why Yes, Mueller Is Looking into Trump Businesses
2 days ago
THE LATEST

In addition to ties between Russia and the Trump campaign, Robert Mueller's team is also "examining a broad range of transactions involving Trump’s businesses as well as those of his associates, according to a person familiar with the probe. FBI investigators and others are looking at Russian purchases of apartments in Trump buildings, Trump’s involvement in a controversial SoHo development in New York with Russian associates, the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow, and Trump’s sale of a Florida mansion to a Russian oligarch in 2008, the person said. The investigation also has absorbed a money-laundering probe begun by federal prosecutors in New York into Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort."

Source:
Mueller Expands Probe to Trump Business Transactions
3 days ago
THE DETAILS

Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team is "is examining a broad range of transactions involving Trump’s businesses as well as those of his associates", including "Russian purchases of apartments in Trump buildings, Trump’s involvement in a controversial SoHo development with Russian associates, the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow and Trump’s sale of a Florida mansion to a Russian oligarch in 2008."

Source:
ANALYSIS FROM CBO
32 Million More Uninsured by 2026 if Obamacare Repealed
3 days ago
THE LATEST

"A Senate bill to gut Obamacare would increase the number of uninsured people by 32 million and double premiums on Obamacare's exchanges by 2026, according to an analysis from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. The analysis is of a bill that passed Congress in 2015 that would repeal Obamacare's taxes and some of the mandates. Republicans intend to leave Obamacare in place for two years while a replacement is crafted and implemented."

Source:
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login