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What do Sarah Palin, Lady Gaga, Gen. McChrystal have in common? Time magazine: they're special

May 4, 2010 |  8:32 am

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, Lady Gaga and former President Bill Clinton, all named to Time Magazine's 2010 list of Most Influential People by Getty
Tuesday night's black-tie gala for Time magazine's "100 Most Influential People in the World" actually includes 350 guests who made the list, or did last year, or were invited as wannabes who could make the list next year. On some level this self-indulgent congratulatory confab is a great excuse for a party -- and a smart branding ploy to boost circulation.

But on a more serious level, it can be a barometer of public opinion. For instance, golfer Phil Mickelson was selected this year over Tiger Woods. And pointedly, revered golfer Jack Nicklaus was asked to write the tribute to Mickelson, which reads like a denunciation of Woods, with its praise for Mickelson's family values.

Former President Bill Clinton is on the cover (along with Lady Gaga and Ivory Coast footballer Didier Drogba) and gives opening remarks. But he will be joined by an odd assortment of political types -- President Obama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi made the list, but so did Massachusetts Republican Scott Brown and Arizona Republican John Kyl.  Not included: his wife, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Jenny Beth Martin, co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots, is on the list, but nowhere to be found is Kentucky Republican Mitch McConnell or Nevada Democrat  Harry Reid, leaders of their parties in the Senate.  Paul Volcker, Elizabeth Warren (TARP critic and potential nominee for the Supreme Court) and even Kathleen Merrigan, sustainable-food advocate and deputy assistant secretary of Agriculture, make the cut, but White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel did not, and for that matter neither did Merrigan's boss, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. Gen. Stanley McChyrstal and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen are on the list, but not Gen. David Petraeus, commander of the Central Command.

Time magazine rationalizes these exclusions by saying the list is not about people of power, but people of influence, and that they delight in finding "people you've never heard of" and sharing their achievements.

Forgive me if this is unduly cynical, but when you anoint the rock star of the "tea party" movement, the leading credible critic of TARP spending and a major singing star conglomerate -- and have a former president introduce them -- you guarantee a lot of buzz. And maybe save a dying media giant in the process. But hey, we imagine the food will be good.

Full list here. Let us know who you think Time's editors forgot.

-- Johanna Neuman

Photo: Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, Lady Gaga and former President Bill Clinton, all named to Time magazine's 2010 list of Most Influential People. Credit: Getty Images

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