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Published: Sunday, 1/2/2005

What about the soldier?

Time magazine chose President George W. Bush as 2004 s Person of the Year, a designation that perhaps should have gone for the second year running to the American soldier.

Time would argue that the title goes to the person who had the greatest impact, good or bad, over the previous year the most newsworthy person or the one who dominated the headlines.

By this test one could give the magazine the benefit of the doubt in the face of critics who might see its designation of Mr. Bush this year, a repeat of its 2000 choice, as an act of self-abasement before a president just elected to a new term. By its selection, Time acknowledged that Mr. Bush s successful electoral campaign was the story of the year.

It is also not fair for political critics of Mr. Bush, a minority of the voters on Nov. 2, to argue that he should not have been chosen by the magazine because of what he has done waging war in Iraq, running up a breathtaking deficit, and other misdeeds.

The choice was basically a journalistic one, not one of approval or disapproval. On that level Mr. Bush was in competition with newsmakers like Scott Peterson, convicted of murder in California; Janet Jackson, of Super Bowl halftime show fame, and Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, of Findlay.

We think it would have been more appropriate for Time to set a precedent and, through it, underscore the profound importance to the country of its volunteer forces, fighting and sacrificing their lives in appalling circumstances. If the truth be known, it is probably the case that more Americans want to read about our troops overseas than about President Bush, like him or not.

At this newspaper at least, the American soldier is certainly Person of the Year, hands down.

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