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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

TIME 'Person of the Year'

Aired December 19, 2004 - 08:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR: We have some breaking news out of Najaf, where a huge car bomb has exploded a short time ago just yards from the sacred Imam Ali shrine. A CNN journalist there is reporting at least 10 dead and likely many more casualties.
And CNN has confirmed that insurgents in Baghdad have taken hostage 10 employees of a U.S. company. This videotape shows four masked gunmen with the blindfolded captives. The militants are reportedly threatening to kill the men if the Washington based Sandy Group does not leave Iraq.

Attacks elsewhere in Iraq have left four people dead. Three are now confirmed as election workers who were gunned down in their vehicle. Overnight, another person was killed, also on Haifa Street. The downtown thoroughfare has become so treacherous that it's being dubbed "Little Falluja."

Thanks for joining Tony Harris and myself for CNN SUNDAY MORNING. Our special on TIME's "Person of the Year" begins right now.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The classic definition of "Person of the Year"...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ... is the man or woman...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... who, for better or for worse...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ... affected the news in the post powerful way.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's not necessarily always the most obvious or straightforward choice.

ANNOUNCER: Welcome to the CNN special presentation, TIME PERSON OF THE YEAR.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We could certainly make the case that the terrorist is the Person of the Year.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you look at what has happened in Iraq this year, the most important figure is Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You could argue that the most important news story was the U.S. Presidential election.

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Reporting for duty.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The obvious candidate is President Bush.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: America has spoken.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Many people have nominated Karl Rove for "Person of the Year." Karl Rove was the architect of the president's victory.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sometimes it might be a more unconventional choice.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The case could be made for Jon Stewart.

JON STEWART, HOST, "THE DAILY SHOW": Stop hurting America.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mel Gibson and Michael Moore.

MICHAEL MOORE, FILMMAKER: Trying to get members of Congress to enlist in the Army.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Both of them made films in the last year that tapped into enormous wells of feeling.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You could make an argument for Christopher Reeve in that he stands in for the larger debate about stem cell research.

You could argue that -- that it was the conflicted voters that were the most important players.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bloggers.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Evangelical Christians.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Rumsfeld.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The mayor of San Francisco, Gavin Newsom.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The Swift Boat Veterans for Truth.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The prison guards at Abu Ghraib prison.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There are lots of people we watched all year. We watched Kobe Bryant. We watched Martha Stewart.

MARTHA STEWART, FOUNDER, MARTHA STEWART LIVING OMNIMEDIA: I'll be back.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We watched the Scott Peterson trial.

They are often either fascinating, riveting figures in their own right. However, in the years when the earth shakes, then we're looking for the people who were doing the shaking.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

AARON BROWN, HOST: Since 1927, they have been those who have affected us the most, affected our world and our lives, mostly for the better but sometimes not.

Hello I'm Aaron Brown. And welcome to CNN's special presentation of TIME magazine's "Person of the Year."

It's never an easy decision, and it is often controversial, but TIME's "Person of the Year" was never meant to be an award or an accolade, no matter how coveted by some.

Over the last 77 years, there have been heroes, plenty, and villains, everyone from presidents and peacemakers to Adolf Hitler and the Ayatollah Khomeini.

Choosing the "Person of the Year": the debates, the short list, all closely guarded right up to the final decision.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JIM KELLY, MANAGING EDITOR, TIME MAGAZINE: Every year when we look at the TIME "Person" or "Persons of the Year," we look at someone or a group of people who have most shaped events for that year.

NANCY GIBBS, EDITOR-AT-LARGE, TIME MAGAZINE: There are years that were defined by what happened in Silicon Valley. There are years that were defined by what happened on Wall Street.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ten for $23,000.

GIBBS: This wasn't one of those years.

KELLY: Two thousand four, it seems to me, was a year of Iraq, a year of politics.

BUSH: I'm here to ask for your vote.

KELLY: A year of cultural values and the debate over those values.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You may seal this marriage with a kiss.

LISA BEYER, ASSISTANT MANAGING EDITOR: Arguably, the most important news story this year was the war in Iraq.

KELLY: Iraq has many facets. People have nominated the prison guards who blew the whistle on the torture that was going on at Abu Ghraib prison.

BEYER: You could make the prisoner of war your "Person of the Year." You could have that particular prisoner who was -- the famous photograph of him posed on a box with a cape and strapped to wires.

Or you can talk about Rumsfeld as the "Person of the Year" since ultimately, he's the one who was in charge of the department responsible for those abuses.

Al-Zarqawi, this al Qaeda-linked figure who seems to be running much of the insurgency in Iraq, would be someone we've talked about.

ROMESH RATNESAR, WORLD EDITOR, TIME: The tactics that al-Zarqawi used, which were kidnappings, executions, assassinations, beheadings, have all served the purpose of instilling a real sense of terror and fear.

BEYER: It's the reason that we're still fighting a war in Iraq. The reason why it's not a U.S. occupation or a cleanup act, is that we've been bogged down by the actions of Jihadis in Iraq.

GIBBS: This was an election that occurred in war time, and when the future of the economy and of our entitlement programs and of the very security of this country all were on the table.

BEYER: Karl Rove is somebody you have to consider for "Person of the Year."

KELLY: Really, as the president himself said right after his re- election, Karl Rove was the architect of the president's victory. To do Karl Rove alone might in some way diminish the actual achievement of President Bush.

BUSH: America has spoken. I'm humbled by the trust and the confidence of my fellow citizens.

BEYER: The obvious candidate is President Bush. He won re- election, despite the fact that the economy wasn't doing so well, despite the fact that we're bogged down in a war.

And yet he's such a remarkable politician that he managed to persuade the American people that he was the person to lead us into the future and to continue to wage this war.

KELLY: When people think of America around the world they think not only about the president, but they think of Hollywood. They think of the cultural, you know, products that Hollywood produces.

BEYER: Mel Gibson is a contender.

RICHARD LACAYO, SENIOR WRITER, TIME MAGAZINE: There's a man who, when he undertook that film, "The Passion of the Christ," was presumed to be taking a tremendous gamble.

BEYER: Michael Moore.

KELLY: He changed what we thought of as one of the elements in the presidential debate.

MOORE: I think people are clamoring for the truth. They want to know how we got to this point. How did we get into this war?

LEV GROSSMAN, STAFF WRITER: Jon Stewart would absolutely be a very, very interesting candidate. GIBBS: He is the embodiment of the blurring of news and entertainment.

STEWART: I watch a lot of the cable news shows, so I understand that apparently you were never in Vietnam.

KERRY: That's what I understand, too.

GIBBS: It's the comedian who got up and said it is a tragedy that our political discourse has been reduced to the kind of circus that it has become.

BEYER: Gavin Newsom, the mayor of San Francisco is somebody we thought about as the Person of the Year. He was the guy who first started marrying people very publicly at city hall in San Francisco. Marrying gay couples.

MAYOR GAVIN NEWSOM, SAN FRANCISCO: I think it's inevitable. It's a question of time. If we don't succeed today or we don't succeed in the courts, because of the actions we took in the last few days eventually we're going to succeed. Because it's the right thing.

GIBBS: You could say that between the justices of the state of Massachusetts and the mayor of San Francisco, they were really the players who forced that issue and forced voters to make a decision about, not just where they stand on the issue but how they want that decided.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I declare you to be married.

ANNOUNCER: Coming up, TIME narrows down its choices.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER: We now return to TIME "Person of the Year."

KELLY: We strongly considered Michael Moore and Mel Gibson. Both are filmmakers. Both are fundamentalist in their beliefs.

BEYER: Two people on opposite ends of the political pole who have used culture, in particular movie making, in some ways in very political ways.

KELLY: There was interesting similarities between the two of them to make them very strong contenders for -- for "Persons of the Year."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's never been a presidential election like this one. There was a lot of intensity of feeling on both sides of the cultural divide.

JAN SIMPSON, ASSISTANT MANAGING EDITOR, TIME MAGAZINE: These two men put their fingers on exactly where we were at this point in time.

LACAYO: In the beginning of the year there was Gibson with "The Passion of the Christ." And it was a really powerful statement. And then as the year wore on came along a counterpart, which was Michael Moore's piece which is a kind of a secular passion from the left.

Both of them were saying, "The truth shall make you free, and I'm going to bring you a way to find the truth."

In Mel's case is was through Christ, and in Michael Moore's case it was uncovering the lies of the Bush administration as he sees it. They brought forward the products that they knew people would respond to, and they were right. Both of them were right.

SIMPSON: Mel Gibson tapped into, actually reflected his own very devout, very deep interest in religion and how it's playing out in our lives today.

LACAYO: He belongs to a very conservative wing of Catholic Church, kind of a break away church that has never accepted the reforms of Vatican II.

That faith animates his film. And you can -- there's a good reason for calling it the passion.

MEL GIBSON, ACTOR/DIRECTOR: That's what art is and that's what -- and that's what making art is about. It's about sort of throwing it all out there. I think -- and if the fur is not flying, you ain't doing nothing.

SIMPSON: I think "The Passion of the Christ" obviously tapped into a percolating revival of religious feeling in this country. It was a movie that surprised Hollywood, surprised Washington and surprised the country. We played well in blue states as well as red states.

LACAYO: He proved that that feeling was out there, that that desire was out there, and he satisfied it. He brought forth the thing that people wanted to see.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This movie, however, felt like a documentary. Suddenly it seemed very real.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Even the use of the old languages, Aramaic and Latin, kind of gave the very dialogue movie a kind of eternal feeling.

SIMPSON: People who are Christians very seriously looked at what their faith meant, what kind of sacrifice was made and what kind of sacrifice was asked of them.

STEVE KOEPP, DEPUTY MANAGING EDITOR: It was also a chance for people who were not deeply involved in devout Christians wanted to see what's that about? Where does that come from? What does it feel like to believe in this so intensely?

GIBSON: This film is about faith, hope, love and forgiveness. That's what it's about.

He was really making a movie about something that was really important to him, his relationship with his faith. And I think was that sincerity that people really responded to.

LACAYO: I think that Michael Moore is what liberals have instead of a political party in the United States.

MOORE: They're going to a nonfiction film because they had to live with four years of fiction coming from the White House.

LACAYO: When they feel that the Democratic Party doesn't articulate their feelings early enough, Michael Moore is the one that comes out fighting.

SIMPSON: This movie, "Fahrenheit 9/11," really changed what the documentary can do.

LACAYO: He produced it right on time to make it part of the presidential campaign and to open up the debate, to attack, one, the president, just before the election in hopes of influencing that election and making people think about these issues. And that's something that no documentary filmmaker has ever done and ever succeeded in doing.

SIMPSON: It dealt with the serious questions: should we have gone to war? What exactly, really, are we fighting for? How much are we prepared and willing to give?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's not a journalistic document, but it is a very artful connecting of the dots so that if you -- if you have a gut feeling about that Bush is -- Bush is the wrong guy for you this really reinforces your -- reinforces your beliefs.

LACAYO: In the next presidential election year, people are going to be thinking ahead about what other kinds of, if you will, cultural product might be introduced into the election campaign.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's changed politics in the sense that the candidates have to realize that they don't control anything. The arena has a lot more gladiators and characters in it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yet, both of these men produced films that are problematic in themselves, as well.

SIMPSON: I think on the side of "Fahrenheit 9/11," there were feelings that Michael Moore was taking cheap shots. The way the film kept coming back to the president sitting there with the children, reading the book, that it overemphasized a -- you know, a particular moment.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: "The Passion of the Christ," there were a lot of conversations about whether or not the film was anti-Semitic. Both of these films stirred up a lot of controversial. But I don't know that that's a bad thing, because in the controversy came a lot of debate. And having people discussion and engage in that way is a good thing.

KELLY: But in the end we thought someone was more deserving.

ANNOUNCER: When we return, TIME's 2004 "Person of the Year" revealed, an inside look at who the magazine chose and why.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER: We now return to TIME "Person of the Year."

KELLY: We're waging a war that is more controversial today than when it first started.

For sticking to his guns and for redefining what leadership means in America today, TIME selected President George W. Bush as the Person of the Year for 2004.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ladies and gentlemen, the president of the United States.

MATT COOPER, TIME WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: George W. Bush not only won re-election in a year when a lot of people thought he'd have a very tough fight, he won pretty handily.

GIBBS: He won the re-election at a time when the country was in the middle of an increasingly controversial war and the economy was kind of standing on tiptoes, and the country was divided over many things, not least of all, him.

KAREN TUMULTY, TIME NATIONAL POLITICAL EDITOR: They framed the electorate in a new way. The decision was made very early that there really weren't a lot of voters out there that could be swung from one side to another.

President Bush and his campaign team, led by Karl Rove, decided that they were going to dig deeply into the Republican base and come up with new ways of energizing Republican voters. It had never been seen before in quite the way that the Republicans pulled it off this time.

JEFF DICKERSON, TIME WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: There was a riskiness to his campaign. He was told a number of times that he had to do certain things and get rid of his secretary of defense during the Abu Ghraib prison scandal. You've got to change your position on stem cells. You've got to send more troops to Iraq; you've got to withdraw troops from Iraq.

In each of those instances, he did just the opposite. He did what we don't normally expect from politicians. He didn't give people what they want and what he was being told in the polls. He went the other direction. GIBBS: One of the main things that Bush was being told to do not just by columnists and editorial pages but by fellow Republicans was he had admit mistakes. He had to show either a little humility or that there was a learning curve.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He also knew that publicly the minute presidents admit a mistake they pull on a sweater thread and that that the sweater unravels. Because once you admit one thing, you have to keep admitting.

COLLINS: So he drew the line and just did not go there.

BUSH: Thank you for taking time out of your Sunday to say hello.

GIBBS: The president stood up in front of a crowd, he was not delivering one message he was delivering two. He would talk about the issues and his positions on issues.

BUSH: That's why I went to Washington, D.C., to strengthen Medicare...

GIBBS: But he would also say three or four times in his stump speech --

BUSH: Even when you might not agree with me you know what I believe and where I stand and where I intend to lead our country.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: His gamble was this. He said people won't agree with me. But they'll like the fact that I believe in what I believe in and that's what they'll ultimately vote for.

It certainly has set a model that we're going to see in a lot of elections to come.

GIBBS: The fact that he won and the way that he won is likely to change the political rules for at least the next generation.

JOE KLEIN, COLUMNIST/SENIOR WRITER, TIME: Arguably, given the screw-ups in Iraq, given the torture at Abu Ghraib, you could have easily made the argument, and I frequently did in my column that this was a chief executive who needed to be replaced.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Even though many of the arguments he put forward for having a war in Iraq were proven to be untrue, he nevertheless was able to rally the country and a fair number of allies to keep prosecuting this war.

KLEIN: In the end the strength and clarity of his stand against the Islamist radicals was far more important to the public, or at least marginally more important to the public, than the errors that he made in going to war in Iraq and the post-Saddam period.

In fact, you could almost ignore the record if he could appeal to people with this notion that when the tough decision comes, here's a person who is used to making those decision who is can handle being in the chair. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He put the United States troops into a land war in the Middle East. And that alone will be the decisive aspect of his presidency, the thing that people will talk about in 100 years.

The Bushes have quietly emerged as America's political preeminent political dynasty not, just now but for all time, I think. I think you can make a case that they're arguably have been more influential than the Kennedys. They certainly have elected more presidents than the Kennedys.

GEORGE H. W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I just called Governor Clinton over in Little Rock.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president has done something his father couldn't, which was win re-election. And so in terms of the Bush family dynasty, the Bush now family has this new chapter.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're like a Darwinian creature that's able to adapt to changing environments and just survive and multiply.

He was a New England wasp who reflected the time and place where he was, as a senator from Connecticut. The president's father was very much a transitional figure.

And the president is very much today not only in tune with conservatives in the Republican Party, he is their champion. And his brother, Jeb, the governor of Florida, is their champion.

KLEIN: In so in that way they're a classic American family. They've moved with the country from the aristocratic east to the entrepreneurial south and west.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This has got all the makings of a dynasty that's not only made it from the 20th century into the 21st but has the capacity to keep going.

TUMULTY: Under George Bush we have seen America take an entirely different approach to its standing in the world. But we've also seen electoral sea change that could, in fact, live well beyond George Bush.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's the great man theory of history. Not great in the sense of necessarily good but great in the sense of commanding and powerful.

George W. Bush gives that theory some credence, because he has put his own imprint on world events.

President Bush famously says he doesn't care what historians will say. But clearly, this is a man who very much is conscious of history.

And when you think about the war in Iraq and its lasting implications for, not just for the Middle East but for America's role in the world, I can't imagine that people 10, 15, 20 years from now won't still be talking about the transformative presidency of George W. Bush.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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