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December 29, 2006

Nostradumbass

William Safire returned to the New York Times Op-Ed page today for his 33rd annual predictions for the year ahead column. The Times allows Safire to continue writing this column because he is a professional pundit, and therefore better at predicting upcoming events than the average Joe. Or a chimp with a dart.

Right?

At the top, Safire alludes to the fact that his predictions for '06 "took a beating," but he doesn't quantify that. So I've done it for him. Out of the 14 predictions Safire made last year at this time, 3 came to pass. Maybe 3 and a half (In this year's column he gives himself credit for his prediction a year ago about the stock market. I'd call that generous.) In other words, William Safire is about as good at predicting the future as David Brooks is at predicting the past. Details after the jump.

Here's how I scored Safire's 2005 column. Some of these predictions are outside the area of my expertise, so if you think I judged incorrectly, let me know and I'll reassess.

1. U.S. troops in Iraq at 2006 year's end will number: (a) current ''base line'' 138,000; (b) closer to 100,000; (c) closer to 90,000; (d) 80,000 or below.
Safire's prediction: d
Correct answer: none

2. Speaker of the House succeeding Dennis Hastert will be: (a) Mike Pence; (b) Rahm Emanuel; (c) Steny Hoyer; (d) Roy Blunt; (e) Nancy Pelosi; (f) Tom DeLay.
Safire's prediction: a
Correct answer: e

3. Best-picture Oscar to: (a) Woody Allen's comeback, ''Match Point''; (b) Ang Lee's ''Brokeback Mountain''; (c) James Mangold's ''Walk the Line'' (cashing in on Reese Witherspoon's performance); (d) Niki Caro's antisexist ''North Country.''
Safire's prediction: b
Correct answer: none

4. The Robertscalito court will: (a) in the Texas case disengage from involvement in states' redistricting; (b) go the other way in Oregon, holding that federal power to prohibit substances trumps a state's authority to permit physician-assisted suicide; (c) decide that federal funds can be denied to law schools that prohibit military recruitment on campus; (d) uphold McCain-Feingold, enabling Congress to restrict political contributions but not expenditures; (e) reassert citizens' Fourth Amendment protection from ''security letters'' and warrantless surveillance.
Safire's prediction: all
Correct answer: c

5. Nonfiction sleeper best seller will be: (a) ''Never Have Your Dog Stuffed,'' by Alan Alda; (b) ''Self-Made Man'' by Norah Vincent, the new Steinem; (c) ''In Search of Memory,'' by Nobelist Eric Kandel.
Safire's prediction: c
Correct answer: none

6. Fiction surprise will be: (a) ''Eye Contact'' by Cammie McGovern, about an autistic murder witness; (b) ''The World to Come'' by Dara Horn, about a museum heist; (c) a media murder mystery by Russ Lewis; (d) second novel by Scooter Libby about anything.
Safire's prediction: a
Correct answer: none

7. Israel-Palestine affected by: (a) political split in successful Hamas; (b) Mahmoud Abbas naming jailed Marwan Barghouti his Fatah successor; (c) dieter Arik Sharon's centrist Kadima party winning big in March and forming coalition with Labor.
Safire's prediction: all
Correct answer: c (though the diet didn't help)

8. Government report most likely to resist investigative reporting will be: (a) special prosecutor David Barrett's 400-page exposť of political influence within the Internal Revenue Service and Clinton Justice Department; (b) the 36-page report by the Senate Intelligence Committee about the 2000 terrorist attack on the destroyer Cole, cleared for release by the C.I.A. but suppressed by the Senate.
Safire prediction: both
Correct answer: both

9. Stock market will: (a) slump in midsummer, causing data-dependent Fed chief Bernanke to morph into ''accommodative Ben''; (b) tread water while a barrel of oil gurgles down to $50 and media ''convergence'' zigs while corporate ''disaggregation'' zags; (c) finally reflect sustained 4 percent G.D.P. growth by Dow breaking through 12,000.
Safire's prediction: c
Correct answer: a; (the Dow did break 12,000 late in the year, but growth in GDP dropped to 2.5% early on)

10. In Iraqi politics: (a) Shiite majority will refuse to amend the constitution to suit Sunnis; (b) disgruntled Sunnis will encourage terrorists to drive out Americans; (c) nationalist Iraqis and bridging Kurds will achieve a loose confederation and create a Muslim brand of democracy.
Safire's prediction: c
Correct answer: a & b

11. Vote-changing domestic issue in this year's U.S. elections will be: (a) wiretapping and computer intrusions on privacy; (b) extending reductions of dividend, capital-gains and estate taxes and reducing alternative minimum tax; (c) growth in economic inequality and need for pension protection; (d) journalist jailing by the new leak-plumbers.
Safire's prediction: none
Correct answer: none

12. Thinking outside the ballot box -- the dark-horse line for the 2008 presidential race will pit: (a) Virginia Democrat Mark Warner against Massachusetts Republican Mitt Romney in the battle of centrist capitalists; (b) Dems' iconoclastic Senator Russ Feingold vs. the G.O.P.'s nonpartisan Mayor Mike Bloomberg to compete for evangelical vote; (c) the Dems' favorite Republican, Chuck Hagel, against the G.O.P.'s favorite Democrat, Joe Lieberman; (d) domestic centrists and foreign-policy hardliners Hillary (''You're a Grand Old Flag'') Clinton against Condi (''I am not a lawyer'') Rice.
Safire's prediction: d
Correct answer: none (at least not in 2006)

13. Conventionally, inside the box: (a) Bill Richardson vs. Rudy Giuliani; (b) Hillary vs. John McCain; (c) Warner vs. Romney; (d) Joe Biden vs. George Allen.
Safire's prediction: b
Correct answer: b

14. As Bush approval rises, historians will begin to equate his era with that of: (a) Truman; (b) Eisenhower; (c) L.B.J.; (d) Reagan; (e) Clinton.
Safire's prediction: a
Correct answer: hahahahahahahahaha!

Posted by Daniel Radosh

Comments

The worst ones are the predictions with "none" as the correct answer. Since, presumably, Safire himself came up with the multiple choices, this means he had 3 or 4 wrong answers to each of those predictions. This means out of 14 tries he actually managed to be wrong more than 20 times!

And the point of Safire's annual went completely over your head.

thanks. I never could figure out how such a total, obvious dumbshit got a column. If writing speeches for Nixon qualifies someone as a pundit, Goebbels should be on CNN!

14. As Bush approval falls, historians will begin to equate his era with that of: (a) James Buchanan; (b) Warren G. Harding; (c) Franklin Pierce; (d) Andrew Johnson; (e) Millard Fillmore.

As we allow our op/ed page to continue to be dominated by boring, out-of-touch old men like Safire, Brooks and Friedman, the American public will stop reading the NYT completely and turn to which blog: a) Drudge b) Radosh c) ...

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