What about Benedict & Ahmadinejad?

Time's most influential people list excludes pope, Iranian leader.

Ahmadinejad shouts 248.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
Ahmadinejad shouts 248.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
As we welcome Pope Benedict XVI today, it is worthy of note that Time magazine, in its May 11 edition, chose not to include the pontiff in its annual list of the 100 most influential people in the world. The 82-year-old German pope has made supreme strides to mend Catholic relations with both Muslims and Jews since taking charge of the Vatican in 2005. He has also made great efforts to repent and undo the harm caused by his remarks a year later characterizing some of Muhammad's teachings as "evil and inhumane," and his reinstatement last year of British Holocaust denier Bishop Richard Williamson. Regarding Holocaust denial, its most famous proponent is even more conspicuously absent from Time's list. Surely, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who faces reelection next month, qualifies for what the prestigious American magazine's managing editor, Richard Stengel, calls the "modern stars who shape our destiny." After all, Ahmadinejad may just be the most dangerous political leader in the world today, threatening not only Israel, but the stability of the entire Middle East. Other names that deserve to be on the list are the Dalai Lama, arguably the most charismatic religious leader alive, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir - who has been charged in The Hague with war crimes against his own people - and Zimbabwe's elderly leader Robert Mugabe, who has somehow stayed in power and avoided the international spotlight despite his systematic destruction of what was once one of Africa's most flourishing nations. INTERESTINGLY, Time did choose Israel's new foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, over the man who clearly holds the reins of power in the new government, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. In his article on Lieberman, author Benny Morris declares that "the new Israeli and American administrations may be on a collision cause," and backs this up by quoting Lieberman as saying that the new government is not bound by the Annapolis framework of 2007, and telling his Foreign Ministry staffers on April 1 that "if you want peace, prepare for war." "Though a question mark hangs over Lieberman's prominence in Israel's decision-making (he is under investigation for corruption)," Morris concedes, "he will be one of the most vigorous advocates of a preemptive Israeli strike to destroy Iran's nuclear facilities should Western diplomacy fail to curb the Iranian project. With Barack Obama bent on placating the Muslim world and talking with Teheran, here too are grounds for an Israeli-American rupture." Significantly, the only other Middle Eastern leader who features on the Time list is Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. One would have thought that if Netanyahu didn't make the cut, at least Syrian President Bashar Assad might have. Just this weekend, the Obama administration announced that it was renewing sanctions on Syria for its support of terrorism and pursuit of weapons of mass destruction, inter alia, even though two US envoys were dispatched to Damascus to explore the prospects of improving ties. The only other Israeli on the list, beside Lieberman, is (justifiably) electric car guru Shai Agassi. It was an odd decision by Time, though, to have Alan Salzman, the CEO of VantagePoint, write about Agassi, because his company has a financial stake in Agassi's enterprise, Better Place. In the interests of journalistic integrity, another writer might have been a better choice. An even odder choice was that of Conrad Black, the former Hollinger publisher who once owned The Jerusalem Post before being jailed for funneling money from shareholders in his company, to write about Boris Johnson, the mayor of London. You can't help but raise your eyebrows when reading the former Lord Black's crazy comment that Johnson "possesses the superb ability not to offend anyone while espousing policy." "Boris is in a good position to remain for a long time where he is, or to make the jump to national office following the likely victory of his [Conservative] party in next year's general elections," the ultra-conservative Black writes. "He is a man to watch, and it will be an unusual pleasure to watch him." For those of us at the Post who suffered under Black's cutbacks during Hollinger's ownership of the paper while he and his cronies stole money from the company and led a life of unfettered luxury, it was an unusual pleasure to watch him go to jail. THERE ARE, as always, an inordinate number of Jews on Time's list, headed - unfortunately - by Bernie Madoff. "Aside from Barack Obama himself," documentary filmmaker Michael Moore writes about Madoff, "no person will provide a more iconic face of this end-of-capitalism-as-we-know-it year than Bernard Lawrence Madoff. Which is too bad." Yes, it is, and it's also too bad that Time's 100 list is so skewed. This is no more evident in its choice (once again) of CNN founder and "America's largest private landowner" Ted Turner without mentioning his business ties with Time Warner. To add insult to injury, it has an article on the same page by Ted Turner on his friend, Mesa Petroleum founder T. Boone Pickens, "a seemingly unlikely environmental crusader" working to "reduce our country's astonishing dependence on foreign oil and end what he calls the greatest transfer of wealth in human history." Time ends the purportedly historic edition by publishing a most pretentious critique of its 100 honorees by columnist Joel Stein. Reading more like a gossip column than serious journalism, Stein admits that he's heard of only 48 people on the list, but makes a point of shvitzing that he has met seven of them. He then proceeds to make his own list, asking several of his candidates - including actor George Clooney over dinner at his house - to make a case for their candidacy. Incidentally, topping Stein's list is his friend of eight years, who also happens to be the head of the Bravo network, Lauren Zalaznick. Stein says he chose Zalaznick over Clooney and Obama because, as Harvard sociology professor Nicholas Christakis maintains, "the people who influence us most aren't our leaders, titans or heroes. The people who affect us most are the ones we spend the most time with." TIME's NO. 1, by the way, is ailing Democratic Sen. Edward Kennedy. In his article on Kennedy, the Republican governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger, who just happens to be married to his niece, Maria Shriver, gushes that "Teddy, 77, is a heroic figure not just in the Democratic Party, but in American politics in general." "The new administration is bringing health care back to forefront of the domestic agenda, and there is one man I know who will push tirelessly to make that quality health care accessible and affordable for all Americans," the former actor concludes. "With Senator Kennedy leading the charge, nothing will stand in the way." Even the most sympathetic reader has to wonder why, if medical care was so important to him, "the Lion of the Senate" left it so late to wage this important battle. In the same edition, Time takes a swipe at Deputy Health Minister Ya'acov Litzman for suggesting that the swine flu should be renamed "the Mexican flu" because of kosher dietary laws. Time may want to take a more critical look at itself and put its own house in order after its choice of what it calls today's top 100 "leaders and revolutionaries - from a Kennedy to the London mayor, the men and women who shape politics." For a start, as Pope Benedict arrives in the Holy Land, it might consider publishing a public confession - or at the very least ask for his forgiveness.