The politics of the 'TIME' 100 most influential people list

Posted at 3:43 PM, Apr 16, 2015
and last updated 2015-04-17 16:34:10-04

On Thursday TIME revealed its annual list of the 100 most influential people in the world – a hodgepodge of business leaders, celebrities and, perhaps the least sexy of the bunch, politicians. But the best part about TIME’s list isn’t seeing who made this year’s cut. It’s seeing who wrote the profiles.

Yes, it’s that magical time of year when we plebes get to read important people’s thoughts on other important people - and sometimes there are delightfully awkward biographer-subject pairings. Why, for example, did TIME ask Martha Stewart to make us understand the cultural significance of Kim Kardashian? But though the contrasting duos can be informative in their own right, the real insight comes from those matched in their field.  

So who better to talk about the D.C. heavyweights on the list than their colleagues? They’re well-versed in the tenacity it takes to be successful in the world of politics, so they can give the insider’s scoop on why the TIME honoree is so special.

But the real reason watching politicians extol praise on their Beltway Brethren is so satisfying is because, true to fashion, they’re using it to their own benefit. From brownnosers to shade throwers, here are some of the highlights of this year’s politically-minded pairs.

Hillary Clinton writing on Elizabeth Warren
Just last week Warren was calling for other Democrats to challenge Clinton’s coronation, and this week we have the finally official presidential candidate writing spiritedly about the U.S. Senator. That could’ve been awkward, but Clinton managed to work in the tension in a way that said both “I CAN MAKE A JOKE, I SWEAR,” and gently remind us that, yes, she is running for president.

“And she never hesitates to hold powerful people’s feet to the fire: bankers, lobbyists, senior government officials and, yes, even presidential aspirants.”

Rand Paul on the Koch brothers
A newly announced presidential candidate writing about the two people who all but pledged to fund the 2016 Republican Race? TIME basically wrapped and delivered a gift to Paul. His write-up of the Brothers Koch sounded a lot like a campaign speech – basically a jumble of “I love America” synonyms that didn’t actually say a lot.

“The Koch brothers’ investment in freedom-loving think tanks will carry on for generations, reminding all of us that ideas and convictions ultimately trump all else.”

John Boehner on Mitch McConnell
OK, first props to John Boehner for this masterful alliteration: “Mitch McConnell’s mind is a marvelous machine.” 

Whoa, is this man a poet? What is he doing as House Speaker? How do you follow a lead like that?

Actually, you don’t. In the rest of the piece praising his Senate counterpart there was some comparison to Ronald Reagan and that’s all you need to know. But man, what an intro.

Antonin Scalia on Ruth Bader Ginsburg
This one was kind of sweet. Scalia and Ginsburg might be the clearest examples of polar opposites on the Supreme Court, but the two have been buddies for years, serving side-by-side on SCOTUS and the U.S. Court of Appeals.

“Having had the good fortune to serve beside her on both courts, I can attest that her opinions are always thoroughly considered, always carefully crafted and almost always correct (which is to say we sometimes disagree).”

So not completely warm and fuzzy, but what can you expect from the guy who decried “the illiterates who communicate with the public,” after a flight attendant’s grammatical error?

But the overall congratulatory nature of his Ginsburg post was positive hype for the court as a whole as they head into contentious same-sex marriage debates.

[Also by Abby Johnston: Congress’ first 100 days in tweets]

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