TIME editor Rick Stengel announced the choice on NBC's "Today" program on Wednesday:
"We are in the midst of historic cultural and demographic changes," Time managing editor Richard Stengel said in announcing its choice. "And Obama is both the symbol and in some ways the architect of this new America."
"He's basically the beneficiary and the author of a kind new America - a new demographic, a new cultural America that he is now the symbol of," he said.The magazine's White House correspondent Michael Scherer wrote a lengthy essay describing what he terms as the "Obama effect:"
"He won re-election despite a higher unemployment rate than anybody's had to face in basically in 70 years. He's the first Democrat to actually win two consecutive terms with over 50 percent of the vote. That's something we haven't seen since Franklin Delano Roosevelt," Stengel said, citing the president who served during the Great Depression and World War Two.
"It could be measured — in wars stopped and started; industries saved, restructured or reregulated; tax cuts extended; debt levels inflated; terrorists killed; the health-insurance system reimagined; and gay service members who could walk in uniform with their partners..."Scherer notes what was curiously one of the least commented-on aspects of Obama himself during the election cycle, his basic likeability:
In an age of lost authority, Obama had managed to maintain his. In group after group, the voters told the researchers they believed the President was honest, lived an admirable personal life and was trying to do the right thing. “Here’s what I heard for 18 months,” Simas says. “‘I trust his values. I think he walked into the worst situation of any President in 50 years. And you know what? I am disappointed that things haven’t turned around.’ But there was always that feeling of ‘I am willing to give this guy a second shot.’”In a passage guaranteed to make Republicans' heads explode:
In different rooms, behind different one-way mirrors, Republicans made the same discovery. “There was almost nothing that would stick to this guy, because they just liked him personally,” Katie Packer Gage, Romney’s deputy campaign manager, said after the election.
Obama says he long ago decided that he should not compare himself to Lincoln. But he nonetheless begins his second term with a better sense of what is possible in his job as well as what is not, something Lincoln struggled with as well. “You do understand that as President of the United States, the amount of power you have is overstated in some ways,” Obama says. “But what you do have the capacity to do is to set a direction.” He has earned the right to set that direction and has learned from experience how to move the country. After four of the most challenging years in the nation’s history, his chance to leave office as a great President who was able to face crises and build a new majority coalition remains within reach.Stengel:
"For finding and forging a new majority, for turning weakness into opportunity and for seeking, amid great adversity, to create a more perfect union, Barack Obama is TIME's 2012 Person of the Year."