Office pool, 1991

William Safire

January 02, 1991|By William Safire

WASHINGTON — DISREGARD last year; it was not my finest prognosticating hour. I was right about the bust into recession and the sudden German unification, but wrong about everything else.

Serve me no humble pie; when Dolph Camilli, the Brooklyn Dodger home-run hitter, struck out three times in a row, we in the Ebbets Field bleachers used to nod sagely and say, "He's due." In 1991, I'm due.

1. The Supreme Court will overturn all but one of the following lower-court decisions: (a) Rust vs. Sullivan, the gag rule on abortion-rights advice; (b) Board of Ed. vs. Dowell, in which school systems are forever run by courts; (c) Int'l Union vs. Johnson Controls, permitting companies to discriminate against women for their own protection; (d) Masson vs. Malcolm, denying interviewees libel claims for non-verbatim quotation. (Pick the one that the court affirms and you get to pick the black female strict constructionist to replace Thurgood Marshall.)

2. The non-fiction blockbuster of the year will be: (a) Clark Clifford's autobiography; (b) Scotty Reston's autobiography; (c) Harry Truman's biography by David McCullough; (d) Suzanne Garment's "The Politics of Scandal," which leads us to (e) "One of Us," Tom Wicker's stunning reassessment of Richard Nixon.

3. Novel of the year: (a) "Prized Possessions" by Avery Corman, about date rape; (b) "You'll Never Eat Lunch in This Town Again" by Julia Phillips, for its ravenous title; (c) "Trial" by Clifford Irving, for its sure-fire megabuck movie sale; (d) "Harlot's Ghost," the longie by Norman Mailer about the CIA, for breaking ground as the first $30 spy novel, and (e) John le Carre's "The Secret Pilgrim," the last spy novel.

4. Winner of the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize will be: (a) Vytautas Landsbergis of Lithuania, for resisting the great Gorbachev crackdown; (b) James Baker, for his last-minute deal with Saddam Hussein; (c) George Bush, for establishing a New World Order by decisively defeating aggression.

5. The looming issue in the coming presidential elections will be: (a) who egregiously tried to undercut the president in waging a successful war; (b) who wisely tried to prevent the president from wading into a quagmire; (c) quotas as the paradigm for civil rights overreach; (d) stagpression.

6. Most surprising winner in World-order War I will be: (a) Iraq, by identifying with the world's losers; (b) Turkey, received into the European Community by a guilty Germany after it shortens the war with a second front; (c) Israel, which gets hit first through Jordan, then lets Palestinians found their East Bank state; (d) the Kurds, whose uprising earns them a free Kurdistan.

7. Political fallout from the war in the U.S. will be led by (a) Democratic investigations into the appeasement of Saddam Hussein before Kuwait; (b) indictments in February of merchants of death who used taxpayer-guaranteed dollars to ship nuclear and chemical weaponry to Iraq; (c) an amalgam of defense-cutters shocked at the waste and ineffectiveness of our weaponry revealed in the desert war.

8. Democratic front-runner will be (a) Sam Nunn, foremost military second-guesser, chaining himself to the gates of Burning Tree Club in egalitarian protest; (b) Mario Cuomo, talking to the skull of poor Yorick, his campaign manager; (c) Gephardt-san, running for the Cromwellian role as Great Protector; (d) patriotic Gore, green thumb up; (e) General Norman (Ethelred the Unready) Schwartzkopf, matching the slows of McClellan.

9. The economy in the second half of 1991 will: (a) sink into the worst recession since the last one, with the Dow plunging below 2,000; (b) be whipsawed by growing unemployment and inflation, better balance of payments and worse deficits, with the Dow at present levels; (c) be out of the woods and off to a new boom in time for the '92 conventions.

10. Mikhail Gorbachev will be: (a) straddling, improvising, balancing forces as the Indispensable Man; (b) taking "stern measures" the world will see as Stalinism with flair; (c) ousted by Yeltsin-Soubchek-Shevardnadze reformers following public revulsion after a bloody crackdown; (d) ousted by the KGB-Army-Party apparat after refusing to order the army to fire at separatists.

My picks: 1d, 2e, 3c, 4a, 5a, 6d, 7b, 8b, 9c, 10c. Gotta play to criticize. Occasionally bet your long-shot hopes; it will lower your average but raise your sights.

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