Half the fun of list articles—the best
movies of the year, the worst-dressed celebrities in America,
and the like—is that readers can dispute the rankings. (The
other half is that writers can do them without too great an
investment of time or effort.) The danger is that while it’s
not possible for such lists to be objectively right, it is possible for them to be objectively wrong. The “farewell
issue” of George magazine
neatly illustrates the point with its list of “the fifty most
powerful people in politics today.”
“Forget conventional wisdom,” George announces — President Bush is only the fourth most powerful
person in Washington, behind Alan Greenspan, Dick Cheney, and
Colin Powell. Actually, Greenspan is the safest pick imaginable
for the top spot. It would have been far bolder for George
to have announced that, come to think of it, the president
is the most powerful man in Washington. It may also be true.
Between Bush and Greenspan, for example, who changed whose mind
on taxes? And it’s Bush, not Powell, who set U.S. policy on
the funding of population-control groups overseas. It’s not
even clear that Powell has more power than defense secretary Don
Rumsfeld, whose budget is ten times higher than Powell’s but
who does not appear on George’s
list. Perhaps it’s because Powell is a celebrity and Rumsfeld
The foolishness continues down the list.
John McCain (#6) is not more powerful than Tom DeLay (#7).
Antonin Scalia (#12) is not, alas, the most powerful Supreme
Court justice—a position held, alas again, by Sandra Day
O’Connor. Lobbyist Vin Weber is #18. Now I know Weber and
admire him, but this seems highly dubious. (If he were that
influential, the GOP would probably have done better over the
last few years.) The Washington
Post’s Dana Milbank and Mike Allen (a joint #19) are not
more powerful than Tim Russert (#25). Maria Cino (#46) is not
more powerful than Karl Rove, who is, inexplicably, not on the
Other omissions are less glaring but also
hard to defend. Where’s Karen Hughes? Where’s Ted Kennedy,
arguably the most powerful Democrat in Washington? (The folks at
George have heard of
the Kennedy family, haven’t they?) Where’s Barney Frank?
Where’s Kathryn Lehman, one of the House Republicans’ top
aides? Where am I?
Well, never mind that last one. Give George
credit for consistency: Its amiable cluelessness about
politics lasted right through the end.
Mr. Ponnuru is a senior
editor at National
George Magazine Book of Political
by Blake Eskin
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