WASHINGTON # Before Time magazine named the American soldier the “Person of the Year” for 2003, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld helped encourage that idea, magazine executives acknowledged Thursday.
Rumsfeld, in a Pentagon meeting with Time’s top executives late last year, had correctly suspected he was among the candidates for the magazine’s honor, and offered what one participant called some “free advice” as the meeting came to an end.
Time Managing Editor James Kelly told CNN that Rumsfeld’s unsolicited suggestion to honor the troops was the “first time in my recollection that someone who was obviously a candidate has volunteered someone else.”
Kelly said the troops were already in the running, but that Rumsfeld’s unprompted comment helped tipped the scale. “In my mind, there were two leading candidates,” Kelly recalled, “the American soldier, and the secretary of defense. He did not know that, and in my meeting with him, he volunteered” that the honor should go to the American soldier.
One military source referred to Rumsfeld’s recommendation as “a pre-emptive strike” made before Time could inform him that he himself was a candidate for the honor.
Kelly said there was no further discussion at the Pentagon meeting as to Rumsfeld’s prospects, nor his suggestion to honor the troops.