MAXWELL: See there, I told you so

1/7/2001 – Printed in the PERSPECTIVE section of the St Petersburg Times Newspaper

 

RICHMOND, Va.

At the end of each year, several syndicated columnists, with the felicity of Christmas vacation time on their hands, play a game of faux mea culpa. These big-time opinion makers drop (for one column only) their usual know-it-all smugness and acknowledge mistakes (factual, grammatical, stylistic) committed in their work during the current year.

The Boston Globe’s Ellen Goodman, for example, predicted that the New York senate race between Rudy Giuliani and Hillary Clinton would be a toss up. Wrong. Rudy slinked back to City Hall. Goodman also worried that she used the word “reticent” instead of “reluctant.”

Like Goodman, the Washington Post’s David Broder underestimated the first lady’s prowess. He wrote that Giuliani’s replacement, the handsome Rep. Rick Lazio, would make the contest a donnybrook. Nope. How could the dean of print navel-gazing goof so terribly? Hillary cleaned Rick’s right-leaning clock.

I always have avoided this annual rite of contrition. What is the purpose? To show that one is self-deprecating? Ironic self-assurance? Whatever the purpose, I dislike such contrivance.

Instead of enumerating my blunders, I hereupon commence an annual I-Told-You-So column. Mine is not a mea culpa. Nor Sir, it is an anti-mea culpa, complete with some astute (smile) predictions for the upcoming year and beyond. Below is the inaugural installment.

First, from the I-Told-You-So ledger:

At the beginning of the 2000 presidential campaign, I bet colleagues that America’s most recent outbreaks of anti-intellectualism and neo-Puritanism would thrust the gray-matter-challenged George W. Bush into the White House.

In more than one column, I cautioned Naderites that they would derail Al Gore’s run for presidency and, as a result, severely cripple the Nader agenda for many years to come. The hard-headed thumbed their noses. Now, many liberal Democrats who stood with Ralph Nader denounce him as a “traitor” and “fool” and, say it ain’t so, a “politician.” A retired activist who worked with Nader and was his friend for 40 years now refers to America’s best-known consumer advocate as an “egomaniac.”

I bet everyone who would bet that Bill Clinton, the comeback kid, would prevail over Monicagate, Whitewater, impeachment, along with all the rest, and would finish out his presidency on a high note _ and with high public approval.

Pay up, chumps. But more about Resilient Willie shortly.

My column warned readers, especially Green Party zealots, that a Supreme Court and a Department of Justice under a Prez W. would concern even the late Barry Goldwater and that equal rights gains would take a hit. Bush was true to form when he nominated Missouri Sen. John Ashcroft, an extreme conservative, for attorney general. I will be monitoring Prez W.’s court nominations.

Ashcroft, who lost his senate race to Missouri’s dead governor, is known for portraying Confederate secessionists as “patriots.” This is the same Ashcroft who, a full decade ago, refused to sign a presidential panel’s study that concluded the United States could do more to bring equality to blacks and other minorities.

Why did he refuse to sign the report? It was “too negative,” he said.

Readers, especially the Greenies, were given a heads-up that Prez. W. would not nominate an unabashed friend of the environment to head the Environmental Protection Agency. We got New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman. Although reared on a horse farm, Whitman has yet to prove her flora and fauna bona fides. How will she react when GOP heavyweights (Tom DeLay) come twisting arms on behalf of their pals in oil? How safe are Florida’s pristine shores from offshore drilling with a Republican in the White House and at EPA?

Mere weeks after the election, Nader now acknowledges that Bush will be less supportive of his consumer agenda than Gore would have been: “Bush is probably going to jettison the tobacco lawsuits, and he’s not good on energy.”

Duh!

Oh, yes, and I wagered that despite being a huge underdog early in the campaign, Hillary Clinton would be New York’s new senator. She won in a rout. A CNN/USA Today poll indicates, moreover, that Americans admire Hillary Clinton more than any other woman in the world. She humbled Oprah Winfrey and former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

I do not mean to brag, but, dad blame it, winning has a way of making you full of yourself.

Now, to a few safe predictions, and, depending on how well I fare with these, I will attempt tougher ones next year:

Prez. W. will prove to be the empty suit, the university legacy, I described in more than one column. Before 2001 ends, he will be a “world class” embarrassment in foreign and domestic affairs _ if he is permitted to think and speak off the cuff. White House puppeteers definitely will earn their keep during the next four years.

The Rev. Jesse Jackson and Nader will form the Green Rainbow Coalition, a nonprofit lobby that advocates self-immolation in public places, especially during presidential election years (Just joking).

During her first term, Hillary Clinton will show signs of becoming a great senator.

Angered by ballot irregularities and reports of physical intimidation during the 2000 presidential election, African-Americans will increasingly become a viable voting bloc for the Democratic Party, adding credence to the old saw that, as voters, blacks are a monolith.

Soon after being out of the White House, Bill Clinton will show that he will be another Jimmy Carter: a statesman whose vision and public usefulness will grow with time. Look for Clinton to remain a major player on the international stage in the near and distant future. And, like his wife, the president dominated the CNN/USA Today most admired poll.

Clinton shared the top spot with none other than Pope John Paul II, proving that most pundits and conservative Republicans are out of touch with mainstream thinking.

Clarence Thomas will finally become a normal justice and speak (utter audible words from his mouth) during oral arguments. Strange. Passing strange.

America’s new role in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will add to the region’s volatility around the negotiating table and on the ground.

Race relations will get worse during Prez W.’s administration.

First-child Chelsea Clinton will speak publicly (with reporters present) for the first time on American soil. Mark my word: The former teenager with braces and unruly locks, whom the right-wing windbag Rush Limbaugh once called a “dog,” will become a great leader in her own right.

I am certain that a few of my many detractors will clip this column, save it and insist that I eat crow at the end of 2001. Time will tell.

Was I ever wrong during 2000? Sure, I made several bad and expensive calls in sports. In state and national politics, however, I was on the money, rarely joining what Broder aptly describes as the “pantheon of putrid punditry.”