"Can it be anyone but Barack Obama?" asked Time Managing Editor Richard Stengel. And truly, the president-elect monopolized much of this afternoon's discussion, which included Democratic Rep. Arthur Davis; Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress Elizabeth Edwards; financial adviser Suze Orman; and "Mad Men's" John Slattery.
"Saturday Night Live" head writer Seth Myers and "NBC Nightly News" managing editor, anchor and "Person of the Year" debate mainstay Brian Williams filled out the panel -- and duly traded barbs.
Mr. Williams, who today balked at the magazine's 2006 Mylar cover that declared the honoree to be "You" -- despite, Mr. Stengel said, that it was the anchor's idea in the first place -- was unflappable in his vote for this year's pick, saying there was "but one choice," and that Mr. Obama was "the game changer."
Mr. Williams also floated the idea of Chinese President Hu Jintao, a runner-up in the contest last year, as well as --and despite the sycophantic suggestion, he said -- "SNL" itself.
For his part, Mr. Myers said he considers Gov. Sarah Palin the person of the year, at least among comedy writers.
"It's a lesson that in the future, not to pick someone who looks exactly like one of the most famous comedians in America," he said.
Mr. Davis, who attended law school with Mr. Obama, made his choice clear, saying that it should be the president-elect "far and away," stressing the notion that "an individual can drive history."
What about economy?
Much of an argument was made for another abstract entity as well. Ms. Orman led charge on the economy as the most important issue of the year, and said she could make a strong case for the person who sold the first sub-prime mortgage, or the person who first couldn't afford it.
Joe Scarborough, MSNBC host and recent recipient of a seven-second broadcast delay, from the audience asked Ms. Orman if the Age of Consumerism as we know it had come to an end, something she confirmed we would see become a forced reality sooner rather than later.
"We brought down the economy of the world," she said. "We did it to ourselves. Shame on us."