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Jewish World Review /Dec. 31, 1998 / 12 Teves, 5759

Ben and Daniel Wattenberg

Ben Predictions?
I don't think so

(JWR) --- (http://www.jewishworldreview.com)IT WON'T BE POSSIBLE to bring you New Year's predictions this year. Foretelling the future is futile in these uncertain times. Who would have predicted the events of the past year? Or even the past few weeks?

Who would have predicted that as the last year of the millennium approaches a mighty force would hurl fire down on the plains of Babylon, winter temperatures would rise into the eighties and Lucifer would occupy the White House? Granted, Heaven's Gate predicted all that and locusts too, but who would have guessed that they'd be right?

A year ago, who would have predicted Paula and Monica? That the trailer bunny from Dog Patch would get the nose job and the reportedly Jewish Princess from Brentwood would give the oral sex? See? You just can't be sure anymore.

Who could have foreseen that the president would angrily deny having sex with Monica only to be exposed in a lie by a telltale dress from the Gap? Or that the Gap would target its teen market with a commercial set to the swing era "The Dirty Boogie" and hit pay dirt, as teens en masse embraced the music of their grandparents? Or that Pfizer would hit pay dirt with Viagra, as grandparents en masse embraced the sex and drugs of their teen grandchildren?

Or that we would embrace our grandparents' sport, baseball, while the sport of today, NBA basketball, wouldn't be played because Alonzo Mourning can't make ends meet on $11.2 million a year? Or that Mourning would reject the resulting popular outcry against the players on the grounds that white America can't handle a successful African American? Or that Toni Morrison would reject the popular outcry against "our first black president," Clinton, on the grounds that white America can't handle a successful African American?

Who would have anticipated that our most talked about fiction writer would be journalist Tom Wolfe and our most talked about journalist would be fiction writer Matt Drudge? That the New Republic would fire reporter Stephen Glass for making up stories? That reporters would try to fire President Clinton for making up stories?

And online bookstore Amazon.com, the year's hottest stock? Who would have guessed we would all be staying home tonight to do some shopping -- and going out to a Barnes and Noble superstore to curl up with a mug of cocoa and a good book?

The government is suing Bill Gates for conspiring to eliminate his rivals and adversaries one by one and secretly plotting world domination. An airtight case, but who would have predicted that they would prosecute the wrong man? The guy conspiring to pick off his rivals and adversaries and secretly plotting world domination is this Tom DeLay.

Been watching him? Third in line to be Speaker of the House? All who stand in his way mysteriously fall. Speaker Gingrich? History. His apparent successor, Bob Livingston? Gone. Clinton? Looking iffy. Stick a black beret and a false moustache on Tom DeLay and infiltrate him into Ba'ath Party headquarters. There's your Iraq policy.

Who would have guessed that after seven months of denials, the president would finally admit the obvious, but deny that what he had denied having was sex as such? That this would lead to a midterm electoral setback and an internal challenge to the party leadership -- a Republican setback, a Republican leadership challenge?

That the Republicans would ignore the "lesson" of the November vote and return to Washington and impeach the president, and the president would ignore the first impeachment in 130 years and hold a victory rally on the South Lawn? And that Wall Street would greet this sobering news with an even bigger rally?

Who would have predicted that President Clinton, who times U.S. bombing raids to avoid scheduling conflicts with the nighttime cleaning crews in targeted buildings, would finally, on the eve of an impeachment vote, reduce Baghdad to a parking lot to prove his cojones? Just hours before the House voted to cut them off? And, think, if Hillary had thought of that, none of this would have happened. None of it! But how was she to know? And how were we to know that Hollywood would save up the year's lamest movies for Christmas release? Or that the White House would produce the season's only hit, "Saddam? You've Got Mail."

Who would have predicted that the Calvinist American public would decide that what politicians do in their personal lives is their own business -- and that Hustler publisher Larry Flynt would decide that adulterers in public life must be rooted out and destroyed?

Or that Church of Christ minister's son Ken Starr would be denounced as a pornographer and pornographer Larry Flynt would be denounced as a sexual McCarthyite?

And, be honest, who would have predicted that the president of the United States would argue that, hey, "is" means different things to different people -- but that the meaning of the Constitution we've been bickering about for two centuries is unambiguous: stop picking on me.

Predictions for the new year? I don't think so.


12/11/98: Better dead than read?
11/25/98: Polling the Pilgrims
11/13/98: The icon and the iconoclast
11/06/98: What happened? Nothing!
10/28/98: Two billion never-borns!
10/22/98: Election pundits know nothing
10/15/98: The too-big-to-fail doctrine
9/29/98: The Jerk Factor at work
9/24/98: American civic engagement thriving
9/16/98: Anatomy of a cover-up
9/09/98: Draft Joe Lieberman!
9/03/98: Get over it, folks
8/28/98: McGwire. Maris. Ruth. Clinton.
8/20/98: Is consuming a Big Mac eating?

Ben Wattenberg is a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and is the moderator of PBS's "Think Tank." He wrote this column together with his son, Daniel, a regular writer for The Weekly Standard and a contributing editor for George.