11.30.09 12:55 AM ET
Buckley's Smart 16
Barack Obama, for turning a convention speech into the presidency in four years.
Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, the USAir pilot who landed in the Hudson.
Rudy Giuliani, for figuring out how to turn 9/11 into a fortune.
Steve Jobs, for the Mac turnaround and iPod and just about everything cool about computers.
Tim Geithner, for (so far) avoiding The Great Depression 2. (Though it ain't over til the fat lady sings.)
• The Daily Beast's 25 Smartest People of the DecadeMatthew Weiner, for Mad Men.
David Chase, for The Sopranos.
Nicolas Sarkozy, for getting Carla Bruni. (Really smart.)
David Petraeus, for the Iraq surge. (But see "Fat Lady," above.)
Al Gore, for turning Green into greenbucks. (An inconvenient truth.)
Pope Benedict XVI, for his plan to lure disaffected Anglicans over to Rome.
Peter Morgan, for writing The Queen, The Last King of Scotland, and Frost/Nixon all in the same year.
Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, writer and director of The Lives of Others.
Hillary Clinton, for the job she's doing as Secretary of State.
Christopher Hitchens, for setting the bar so high, while standing at the bar.
Rahm Emanuel, for making $20 million in three years between government jobs. Nice work if you can get it.
Christopher Buckley's books include Supreme Courtship, The White House Mess, Thank You for Smoking, Little Green Men, and Florence of Arabia. He was chief speechwriter for Vice President George H.W. Bush, and is editor-at-large of ForbesLife magazine. His new book is Losing Mum and Pup, a memoir. Buckley's Daily Beast column is the winner of an Online Journalism Award in the category of Online Commentary.