Office Pool Predictions: William Safire


December 31, 2003


In last year's office pool, for the second year running, I accurately predicted the best-picture Oscar winner. Forget all of the other predictions, which were varying degrees of mistaken; I shoulda been a film critic.

The multiple choices include one, all or none. My picks are down below. Do not save this page.

1. Next tyranny to feel the force of U.S. liberation: (a) North Korea; (b) Iran; (c) Syria; (d) Venezuela.

2. 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.

3. First to fall from power will be (a) Little China's Chen Shui-bian, whose two-China campaign oratory on Taiwan is asking for trouble with Big China; (b) Pakistan's Musharraf, double-crossed by his Islamist military; (c) the U.S.'s Bush, after abandoning fiscal restraint; (d) Russia's Putin as his electorate miraculously awakens; (e) Cuba's Castro.

4. Long-overdue exoneration will come to embattled media megastar (a) Martha Stewart; (b) Michael Jackson; (c) Kenneth Lay; (d) Pete Rose.

5. The economy will (a) see a booming 13,000 Dow and 3,000 Nasdaq; (b) grow more slowly as a weakening dollar drives up interest rates; (c) be rocked by the abuse of manipulative derivatives in hedge funds.

6. The fiction best seller will be (a) "Retribution" by Jilliane Hoffman; (b) "Confessions of a Bigamist" by Kate Lehrer; (c) "Flying Crows" by Jim Lehrer (presumably one of Kate's husbands).

7. The nonfiction sleeper will be (a) "Inside — A Public and Private Life" by Joseph Califano Jr.; (b) Carl Zimmer's brainy "Soul Made Flesh"; (c) Michael Korda's biography of U. S. Grant; (d) Gertrude Himmelfarb's "The Roads to Modernity."

8. The scientific advance of the year will be (a) age retardation enhanced by memory protection; (b) a single pill combining erectile dysfunction treatment with a fast-acting aphrodisiac; (c) neuroscientists' creation of a unified field theory of the brain; (d) the awakening of geneticists to the liberating study of bioethics.

9. Best-Picture Oscar: (a) Anthony Minghella's "Cold Mountain"; (b) Edward Zwick's "The Last Samurai"; (c) Clint Eastwood's "Mystic River"; (d) Sofia Coppola's "Lost in Translation"; (e) Gary Ross's "Seabiscuit." (This is the category I'm good at.)

10. Bush's domestic initiative will be (a) Social Security personal accounts; (b) community college scholarships; (c) a moon colony; (d) snowmobile restrictions in Florida parks.

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.

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.

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.

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.

15. The next secretary of state will be (a) Richard Holbrooke; (b) Paul Bremer; (c) Donald Rumsfeld; (d) John Kerry.

16. Israel, staunchly supported during the U.S. election year, will (a) build its security barrier including the Ariel salient and the Jordan Valley; (b) undermine Arafat by negotiating territory with Syria after Assad quiets Hezbollah in occupied Lebanon; (c) close down illegal outposts before "redeploying" settlers out of Gaza.

My picks: 1. (none), 2. (b), 3. (e) (I've made this yearly prediction for three decades and now is not the time to stop), 4. (a), 5. (all), 6. (b), 7. (a), 8. (d), 9. (c) (Make my day, Clint!), 10. (b), 11. (all), 12. (b), 13. (c), 14. (b), 15. (b) 16. (all). This last one is pure, unsourced thumb-sucking; Sharon didn't return my call.