Let the Polite Time Person of the Year Debate Begin

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Welcome to the Smart Set. Every morning we bring you the gossip coverage, filtered. Today: Steve Jobs seems like the early-frontrunner to be Time's Person of the Year, Barack Obama is cutting the free mugs and golf shirts out of the federal budget, and a 7-foot drag queen fascinates Paul Haggis.

  • Brian Williams, Jesse Eisenberg, Grover Norquist, Anita Hill, Marco Batali and Seth Meyers were all on a panel yesterday to discuss who should be named Time's Person of the Year for 2011. This used to be a fun parlor game, until 'You' won in 2006 and completely delegitimized the award. But give this group credit for taking the assignment seriously and offering up reasonable picks. Williams and Batali both suggested Steve Jobs, with Batali also making a somewhat belated case for Michael Pollan and "the bankers." Eisenberg said "the populists," while Meyers went with "angry people," which is a funnier sounding version of what Eisenberg said. Anita Hill touted the "Social Justice Movement," Egyptian blogger Esraa Abdel Fatah, and Elizabeth Warren. Grover Norquist suggested Tunisian street vendor Mohamed Bouazizi. Interesting choices, especially Jobs, who has to be considered the front-runner. But we still say Robert Gates is a darkhorse. [Time]
  • At least one good thing has come out of the Columbus Day weekend of waterfront debauchery and subsequent cover-up that cost two staffers from Rep. Steven Palazzo's office their jobs. A source says one House committee is already to include a blow-by-blow of the weekend and subsequent cover-up in its new orientation binder. Make sure to include the part where the staffers offered to smooth things over with pecans and the fact one of the dismissed staffers put the security deposit (subsequently forfeited) on her own credit card. [Heard on the Hill]
  • The Park Slope brownstone that's been at the center of the nasty divorce battle between J. Crew president Jenna Lyons and her estranged artist husband Vincent Mazeau hit the market last week. The asking price is $3.75 million, which is not bad, considering the couple paid $1.3 million in 2004. As of late last month, Page Six reported that Lyons and Mazeau were "ironing out a settlement in which Mazeau may keep the house," but apparently that didn't take. [Page Six]
  • President Obama is set to put the kibosh on taxpayer-funded swag bags as part of his new get-tough-on-government-waste offensive. According to Politico, the president will sign an executive order today  instructing goverrnment agencies to "stop using taxpayer dollars to buy swag," which the White House defines  as "non-essential items used for promotional purposes" (like mugs) and "other unnecessary promotional items that agencies purchase" (like tote bags). If the crackdown on chintzy gewgaws sounds draconian, Obama's executive order will also reduce the number of "information technology devices" -- think smartphones, laptops, and tablets -- given to federal employees and reduce the ranks of the dark-suited Towncar drivers who squire agency bigwigs (actual and self-anointed) around the D.C Metro area all day. According to the White House, this costs the government $9 million a year. "With the executive order," notes Politico, "the Commerce Department, for example, will reduce the number of drivers for all senior officials to just one, including for Commerce Secretary John Bryson." [Politico]
  • Almost-President and almost-Secretary of State John Kerry was spotted in Boston yesterday "buying a rotisserie chicken and shredded carrots at the Whole Foods at Charles River Plaza," which sounds like something John Kerry would order. In Kerry's defense, the chicken and shredded carrots could be part of some strange Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction hazing ritual that the rest of us are clueless about. Like Eduardo's chicken in The Social Network, except already roasted. [The Boston Herald]
  • John Hartigan, chairman and CEO of the Rupert Murdoch-owned Australian news publisher News Limited, is stepping down at the end of the month. He'll be replaced as chairman by Murdoch himself. The Murdoch-owned Wall Street Journal reported Hartigan announced his exit after 41 years with the publisher "without citing a reason for his sudden departure." Connecting the dots, Businessweek notes that Hartigan's "retirement" coincides with the start of a new government inquiry into the Australian media, "where News controls more than half of the nation’s newspaper readership." This has already prompted "government claims [that] Murdoch titles such as the Daily Telegraph are campaigning for 'regime change'" Reuters adds that the Australian government also recently launched "a probe into media laws in the wake of the News Corp. phone hacking scandal in Britain." [The Wall Street Journal and Businessweek]
  • During "a posh dinner" for Princess Michael of Kent and Prince Dimitri of Yugoslavia at the Cafe Gitane at the Jane Hotel on Friday night, Academy Award winner Paul Haggis filmed a "7-foot drag queen" perform "All That Jazz" using only his cell phone, according to witnesses. We have not seen the video, but we're confident it's better than Haggis' work on The Next Three Days. [Page Six]
  • Tonight's after-work cocktail circuit in Washington has all the makings of a Marx brothers movie, but with more traffic. The problem is, there are two parties tonight scheduled for Joseph Abboud. One, held in Georgetown, will actually feature the designer, who now works for the HMX Group. But across town, Capitol File magazine is throwing its own bash to honor Joseph Abboud. Not the man, but the company he left two years ago that still retains his name. The HMX Group, perhaps knowing they have the star power advantage, is touting the involvement of "Abboud, the designer, the man.” [The Reliable Source]

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