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ESR's Sixth Annual Person of the Year

By Steven Martinovich
web posted December 24, 2001

New York City Mayor Rudy Guiliani. Barbara Olson. Todd Beamer and Linda Gronlund of United Flight 93. Those and many others are the people that you nominated as your Person of the Year. As worthy as they are, 56 per cent of you believe that only person deserves to the nod.

Finally we have a leader! Need I say more?

How could this selection go to anyone else this year?

- comments from two nominators

It's almost a cliché given how often people say the words, but it is true, you can only judge the true measure of a person by how they respond in a crisis.

George W. BushIn January 2001, I doubt many people - Republicans included - would have been very confident about George W. Bush's ability to govern. Millions of Americans refused to concede the legitimacy of his Administration despite his early successes dealing with Congress and America's problems. It was really only by the summer of this year that Americans truly began to accept Bush for the man they hoped he was. After eight years of scandal and prevarication, a man sat in the Oval Office who was plain spoken, did what he promised and lived his life the way many Americans do.

The world changed on September 11 and with it, different standards were established for a president. Not since John F. Kennedy's Cuban Missile Crisis and Franklin D. Roosevelt's response to the attack at Pearl Harbor was a president placed in the position that Bush was in. A morning that began for him in a Florida grade school classroom ended with a desperate need to unite the American people into a common purpose.

Contrary to what many pundits wrote this year, September 11 didn't change George W. Bush and nor did he mature in office. The former party boy who admitted he had been alcoholic and dogged by rumors of 1970s drug use, Bush confronted his demons a long time ago and made himself into the man he is long before Osama bin Laden hatched a plot to murder as many people as possible in attacks using airliners. Many observers saw in Bush a peace of mind that comes from people whom, to use the language of Alcoholics Anonymous, achieve serenity by accepting the things that they can't change.

It was that peace of mind mixed with a determination for justice that has, at least in this journal's opinion, powered Bush since those attacks. It was on display the night that Bush climbed atop a pile of rubble at the site of the World Trade Center three days after the attack and truly became America's president. As he stood and spoke on that pile of rubble in Manhattan, some people in the crowd shouted they couldn't hear him.

"I can hear you. The rest of the world hears you. And the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon," Bush answered. With the crowd responding with a chant of "USA, USA," it would have been impossible to believe that George W. Bush was anything less America's leader, something that many would have argued not nine months before.

It's early yet in Bush's presidency considering that early January marks only his first year in office, so it's hard to predict what kind of presidency Americans can expect over the coming years. Doubtless, he will make moves that conservatives won't like. A Congress determined to limit his impact as much as possible before 2004 may blunt his agenda. He may falter and make a serious mistake. An American public may forget the feelings they had when they saw their president surrounded by their heroes chanting their nation's name.

Despite that, in the words of the nominator quoted at the beginning of this citation, how could this selection go to anyone else this year?

Previous winners:

2000

Jim Robinson, Free Republic web master

Honourable mentions: President-elect George W. Bush, Canadian Alliance Leader Stockwell Day

1999

Larry Klayman, chairman and general counsel of Judicial Watch

Honourable mentions: Free Republic web master Jim Robinson, Former Reform Party (Canada) Leader Preston Manning

1998

Matt Drudge

Honourable mentions: Canadian media magnate Conrad Black, Free Republic web master Jim Robinson

1997 Ron Paul (R-Texas)
Preston Manning (Reform Party Leader - Canada)
1996 Mike Harris, Premier of Ontario (Canada)

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