William Safire passed away this year and with him the hope for another slew of his year-end prognostications. As an insider’s insider he would frequently predict Israeli-Arab detente, Henry Kissinger’s return to the State Department and Richard Nixon’s final vindication. Of course, since much of his insider’s knowledge came straight from Nixon and Kissinger it wasn’t too hard to predict Safire’s success rate. (About the same as Nixon’s second term.)
Into this vacuum someone needs to step. Someone who is a complete outsider, who cannot help but see the future as distorted by an optimistic heart. That’d be me. So here’s what I see, clear as daylight, for the first year of this new decade.
The Supreme Court: Justice Antonin Scalia is showing signs of serious judicial burnout — ever more sarcastic and intemperate. He’s not enjoying the court and the prospect of having to outlast Obama’s second term, which will end in January of 2017 when Antonin will be 81, grates on him. He’ll be thinking of resigning all this summer, and when the court returns in the fall, he’ll announce. Two weeks later, Justice Clarence Thomas will also resign and the two will make public their plans for a joint memoir and tour via Thomas’s motor home, both to be named, “None of your damn business.”
The Senate: Talk of changing the filibuster rules will soon be forgotten and the Senate will settle into an angry mood. The Republicans will slowly come to understand that their solid opposition to health care reform has only enriched their legacy of opposition to Social Security, Civil Rights, and Medicare, each of which has required an entire generation to forget the Republican role. Predictions of Republican victories in the fall will be additionally undercut by the Tea Baggers’ continued purge of the moderates. The opportunity for comedy will continue unabated as new mirthmakers join Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann, and the ever-sidesplitting Mitch McConnell. They don’t call him the Senate Wit for nothing.
The House of Representatives: The fall elections will have only a mild impact in the House, due to the effect of the Tea Baggers driving Republican candidates to the extreme right, and the Democrats eventually learning how to explain the success of health care reform. The Democrats will lose less than ten seats, some of which will be switcheroos of Blue Dogs coming out of the political closet as Republicans. Nancy Pelosi will finally learn to smile as if it doesn’t hurt.
The War in Afghanistan: Two things need to happen or the war is toast: First, the Pakistani leadership and the Pakistani people need to start loving us or the Taliban will continue to have a safe haven there, so dangerously near their Dr. Atomic Kahn. A new George Kennan-like containment policy will arise because that is the best we can hope for.
Afghan War Part II: Karzai needs to go. Since he can be bought out of his presidency, somewhere around March he’s going to be feeling the urge to retire to San Francisco, where he’ll join his family developing of a new chain of restaurants which may or may not be fronts for drug laundering. If the name of the chain turns out to be “Poppy’s,” consider it a clue.
The Commentariat of the New York Times: Gail Collins and Maureen Dowd will write frequently annoying and inane columns that will have intelligent women everywhere complaining that they could do better. Those intelligent women will be correct.
Tom Friedman will realize that he’s losing his success rate to the average stopped clock and retire to focus on writing non-political travel books. They will be very short. But somehow still turgid.
Paul Krugman will remain correct, but regretfully so, almost all the time. He will learn rigorous new writing discipline, and use the interjection, “But wait” only every other column.
Frank Rich will maintain his weekly backwards gaze, reviewing the political theatre of What Just Happened. He will not look forward, since you can’t review something that hasn’t yet taken place.
Ross Douthat, the latest and most confusing of the Time’s attempts to find a conservative voice who can speak without generating those annoying little flecks of foam that form at the corners of the mouth, will resign from the paper and begin his studies for the priesthood by joining Opus Dei.
Bob Herbert and Nick Kristof will regularly make us feel angry, guilty and bad. Thanks I guess.
David Brooks will continue his complex and highly public metamorphosis from an acolyte of William F. Buckley, Jr, into some new kind of political exotic that will combine a basic and caring liberal decency tempered by skepticism of big government in general and disoriented by an irrational fear of transitory deficits. A single lunch with Paul Krugman should be helpful, in which case the transition from genuine conservative to genuine liberal will be complete.
And those folks over at the White House? The President and his team will refine their new kind of executive branch: policy over politics, deep cool, and long-term thinking. Those in the chattering classes who can only understand what’s going on by noticing what moved in the previous 24 hour news cycle will persist in missing the unfolding tectonics of the new era.
What do you see? I can’t wait to hear what you think will (or ought) to happen in the coming year.