Sort of accepting Shawn McElhinney's invitation, I offer my reactions to some of William Safire's prognostications for 2004 plus some of my own. Safire's words are in blue, mine in black.
"Iraq will (a) split up, like all Gaul, into three parts; (b) defeat the insurgents and emerge a rudimentary democracy; (c) succumb to a Sunni coup.
Safire picked (b). He's part right and part wrong. Iraq won't "defeat" the terrorists because in order to defeat terrorists you have to kill every single one of them, and not only them; you have to go on and kill every single one of the people who'll want to become "avengers" and "carry on the noble work." RPG-toting savages, however, will only encourage the Bush Administration to hastily shove the Iraqis into some sort of ramshackle democracy amidst media blathering about British imperialism, post-WWII Japan, and other irrelevant pseudo-precedents. Just as Kerensky saw no enemies to the Left, Iraq's new leaders will be unable to see enmity in anyone who quotes the Koran. So the democratically-elected government of Iraq will be presented with a dire choice -- succumb to a rising tide of Shiite revanchism, or rip up the "constitution" and govern by force majeure. The latter option would require U.S. military support. But by 2005 the United States will be as incapable of saving an unpopular Iraqi regime as it was of honoring its treaty commitments to South Vietnam thirty years before. That leaves Iraq with a "rudimentary democracy" in which the Non-Jihad Jihad Party will bid against the Not-Baathist Baathist Party to lead Iraq's re-entry into the Arab world's struggle against the Great Satan and its Hebrew outpost in Outremer. Short-term outlook: Lots of good press for Bush. Long-term outlook: Buy stock in French and German high-tech companies.
"11. The U.S. Supreme Court (a) will decide that the rights of alien detainees in Guantánamo have not been violated; (b) will deadlock, 4-4 (Scalia recused), in the Pledge of Allegiance case, thereby temporarily affirming the Ninth Circuit decision declaring "under God" in the pledge unconstitutional; (c) in Tennessee v. Lane will uphold a state's immunity to lawsuits, limiting federal power in the Americans with Disabilities Act."
Safire picked "all." Two out of three ain't bad. The Supreme Court wouldn't touch the Pledge of Allegiance with a barge pole. I'm betting it will issue a ridiculous, self-contradictory and tortured opinion that will reverse the Ninth Circuit's decision while leaving everything else undecided. I anticipate lots of hilarious to-ing and fro-ing as the solons who run America's school districts try to write "inclusive" and "neutral" pledges that will express the shimmering, insubstantial essence of the Supreme Court's opinion to the satisfaction of the vengeful imps known as District Court judges.
"12. Howard Dean will (a) sweep Iowa and New Hampshire and breeze to a boring nomination; (b) lose to Gephardt in Iowa and do worse than expected in N.H., leading to a long race; (c) transform himself into the centrist, affable "new Dean"; (d) angrily bolt and form a third party if the nomination is denied him."
Safire picks (b). I think Dean will win Iowa and New Hampshire and become unstoppable, the right and left halves of his brain firing off so many subatomic particles of populist arrogance and delerious philosophy that critical mass will be reached on the podium in Boston, where Dean will proclaim himself the embodiment of all religious truth and offer eternal life to the American people.
"13. The "October surprise" affecting our election will be (a) the capture of bin Laden in Yemen; (b) the daring escape of Saddam; (c) a major terror attack in the U.S.; (d) finding a buried bag of anthrax in Tikrit."
Safire picks (c), but it's a trick question. The October Surprise will be (a) the Bush Administration's orchestrating the capture of Bin Ladin to generate electoral momentum via an outburst of American nationalism; (b) the Bush Administration orchestrating Saddam's escape to generate electoral momentum via an outburst of American nationalism; (c) the Bush Administration allowing a major terror attack to generate electoral momentum via an outburst of American nationalism; or (d) the Bush Administration planting and then pretending to find a bag of anthrax in Tikrit to generate electoral momentum via an outburst of American nationalism. (We could get all four surprises, assuming that the present degree of journalistic integrity is maintained by the American media and that Rush Limbaugh is incommunicado due to an October relapse). Whatever happens, it'll be absolutely and incontestably true and you'll be able to hear all about it on 60 Minutes, which will obligingly soft-pedal (if not ignore) Howard Dean's offer to heal Christopher Reeves by the imposition of hands.
"14. Debating Cheney on TV will be the Democratic running mate (a) Wes Clark; (b) Bob Graham; (c) Bill Richardson; (d) Dianne Feinstein; (e) John Edwards; (f) Carl Levin."
Safire picks (b). I look for Dean to go with the stolid and respectable Clark, who can provide a tissue-thin assurance that the Holy Dean Child will have adult supervision in the Situation Room. Look for the media to soft-pedal (or ignore) Dean's simultaneous promise to achieve world peace by drawing all men unto himself which ends in a garbled squawking noise that rhymes with "bike path."
"15. The next secretary of state will be (a) Richard Holbrooke; (b) Paul Bremer; (c) Donald Rumsfeld; (d) John Kerry."
Safire picks (b). I pick "who cares." We haven't let a Secretary of State influence foreign policy since Kissinger took off his imaginary powdered wig, got into his imaginary gilt coach, and retired to his imaginary Schloss overlooking Central Park.
More short-term predictions (some of them are sure bets, some not):
1. The Vatican will not issue a major new document that "clamps down" on liturgical vagaries. It may, however, issue a major new document that reflects about liturgical use and practice.
2. Voice of the Faithful, already rough, will become hoarse, and then a reedy whisper. VOTF will end up sharing its (dwindling) mailing list of airheads with "We Are Church" and "Call to Action."
3. The Florida Supreme Court will hold "Terri's Law" to be unconstitutional on right-to-privacy and separation-of-powers grounds. The U.S. Supreme Court will deny certiorari (i.e., refuse to hear the case).
4. A quiet stream of Episcopalians will flow into Orthodoxy, another will trickle into Catholicism, but nothing else will happen because of the ECUSA's slide into heresy.
5. Queer Eye for the Straight Guy will spawn at least one copycat show to run in prime time.
6. No bishop will excommunicate or refuse communion to a Catholic politician who supports gay marriage or abortion rights. Large numbers of Catholics will accordingly vote for Dean because they find it expedient that a million babies die for social justice. Republicans will continue posturing as champions of the right to life while laughing into their hands about that "pro-life amendment crap."
7. The Passion will open in a few dozen theaters around the country. It will be (a) praised effusively by Christians of an orthodox/traditional bent; (b) condemned in varying degrees by ecumenically-sensitive Christians and Jews; (c) criticized for its gory imagery by the usual crowd of slow-wits and flibbertygibbets; (d) talked about incessantly by people who haven't seen it; (e) shunned by the "Omega Crowd" because of its reliance on the "unbiblical inventions" of a Catholic mystic; (f) totally ignored by every Diocese in the United States; and (g) worth close to a hundred million dollars when it's finally released on VHS and DVD. Gibson will never again star in a major studio production.
8. At least one major movie studio will make (a) a film about Spain before and during the Reconquista which will show the dangers inherent in Christian religious bigotry; (c) a film about the Crusades which will show the dangers inherent in Christian religious bigotry; (d) a film about Christians and Muslims in 19th or 20th century Africa which will show the dangers inherent in Christian religious bigotry; (e) a film about Muslim immigrants to a Western country that will show the dangers inherent in Christian religious bigotry; or (f) a film about the dangers inherent in Christian religious bigotry.
9. Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins will continue to make millions from a Parousia Franchise that will eventually feature its own action figures and comic books. The comic books will have scenes and some characters printed on paper, and other characters printed on transparent film which can be rapidly lifted away so as to "rapture" them.
10. Other than by lifting away clear film pages of LaHaye comic books, The Rapture[TM] won't happen.
11. MTV will become even more obnoxious, miserable, and incoherent than Ozzie Osbourne, who will himself continue to receive adulation as a living parable of modern fatherhood.
12. People will keep projecting responsibility for their angst, self-loathing, and alienation on smokers, gun owners, and lawyers.
13. There will not be a constitutional amendment defining marriage to exclude homosexual unions, nor any federal legislation purporting to protect the institution of marriage from that unholy dilution. The Bush Campaign will, however, make an enormous amount of hay among conservatives and Christians by pretending it wants such laws badly enough to do something about them. Meanwhile, courts will continue to strike down prohibitions against homosexual unions. The media will feature stories about homosexual couples struggling to enjoy the things we take for granted and stories about the children of homosexual couples struggling to enjoy the things our kids take for granted. Only the usual suspects will feature stories about how we're taking the family itself for granted.
14. Catholics will re-live the sex-abuse scandal as Diocese after Diocese publishes its report about priestly misdeeds. Look for the reports to be handled by the media as compulsory responses to an unspoken and vague command rather than as voluntary attempts to clean house. Stories will use words like "disclosed," "revealed," "admitted," coupled with phrases like "growing pressure," and "increasing dissatisfaction." At least one prominent law review will publish an article arguing for the elimination of the priest/penitent privilege.
15. The Burbling Church will continue to burble, but the Catholic Church will continue to bring grace and light to the world.