Barbara Walters' “10 Most Fascinating People of 2010” was broadcast Thursday night, and many of the people she chose were pretty predictable. Justin Bieber? The Bobby Sherman of his time. The cast of “Jersey Shore”? We see careers in the infomercial industry in their future. Sandra Bullock? The show was supposed to be about fascinating people, not fascinating divorces.
And then there was No. 1, Ms. Walters’ most fascinating person of the year: US Army Gen. David Petraeus.
General Petraeus truly is fascinating, we’ll say that right off. He went to West Point. He was commander of the legendary 101st Airborne Division during the US drive to Baghdad in 2003. As head of US forces in Iraq, he shaped the Bush-era surge of troops that helped turn that country around. He’s now head of the US effort in Afghanistan.
In other words, he’s been at the center of geopolitical events that will shape the US role in the world for generations and that touch the daily lives of millions in the region. By way of contrast, the cast of "Jersey Shore" includes someone whose nickname is “The Situation.”
The point here is that the list exposes something of a cultural disconnect. Walters takes a smattering of the usual suspect celebrities, mixes in a Brit royal-to-be (Kate Middleton), jumps up a bit by adding Sarah Palin (you have to admit she is fascinating, whether you like her or not), and then – wham! – we’re at the annual meeting of the Council on Foreign Relations.
We’re pretty sure Petraeus will note that he is touched, touched by this honor. He is not unshrewd about publicity. (Some of the Army’s other generals might say that’s an understatement.) But we’re also pretty sure he is not going to be sitting down with Matt Lauer on “Today” to discuss how he felt when he heard he’d won.
Got any ideas about who else might fit better on a list of fascinating people that includes four-star generals? E-mail us or leave them in the comments – we’ll tweet our favorites.