Apple’s CEO didn’t stand a chance against Barack Obama and Ben Bernanke



Jobs' first Time cover. Image: Time Inc.

He may have made the editors’ supposed short list, alongside President Barack Obama, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, General Stanley McChrystal, Maine Senator Olympia Snowe, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt, a gang of  Somali pirates and a mob of Iranian protesters.

The readers may have given him 86,729 votes, behind only the Iranian protesters and President Obama in the magazine’s online poll.

But when managing editor Rick Stengel did his “reveal” on NBC’s Today Show Wednesday morning, it was Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke who had been named Time Magazine‘s 2009 Person of the Year, not Apple’s AAPL Steve Jobs.

“Extraordinary guy,” said Stengel, “influences our lives in all sorts of ways, but not person of the year.”

In the end, Jobs wasn’t even among the runners-up. (Those honors went to McChrystal and two candidates not on the short list: Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and a sweatshop of Chinese workers.)

Anybody who watched Stengel’s Today Show teaser two days earlier knew the fix was in. Jobs may have made the short list, but if Stengel had been serious about choosing the Apple guy, he would have worked Jobs into Monday’s show. As you can see in the video below the fold, his name never came up.

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Image: Time Inc.

Jobs was very nearly Time‘s 1982 Man of the Year. Michael Moritz, then a reporter in the magazine’s San Francisco bureau (and now a partner at Sequoia Capital) wrote the story. But in end the editors made a broader and more surprising choice: They named the computer the Machine of the Year.

[Follow Philip Elmer-DeWitt on Twitter @philiped]