Sept. 11, 2001 was the day the Nineties died. Not the decade, of course, but the cultural phenomenon: the tasteful excess, the fretting over whether the baked Alma Ata yak brie really went with the organic spelt toast points, the days when “the president’s blow job” meant something other than blasting al Qaeda the hell out of Tora Bora. America sobered up, and it was suddenly all right, even heroic, to be just an ordinary American. Frivolity is so over, so last-decade. That’s why witty airheads like Maureen Dowd now come across as op-ed dinosaurs, and the scandals that seemed delicious last summer, such as Chandra’s disappearance, Rudy’s divorce, and the Bush twins’ misadventures in Margaritaville, have all the resonance of middle Babylonian history.
I am usually loath to predict the unpredictable future, but when a new year — or a new era — begins so late on the calendar as the one that has just arrived, I feel confident prognosticating about a few trends that will likely last through at least the first few months of 2002.
First the bad news: Sorry, but the recession looks here to stay (not so bad: Hard times are unpleasant, but they force us to focus on the things that money can’t buy, such as love and faith and courage and honesty). Expect more instability in Islamic lands, where nonexistent economic growth has gone hand in hand with burgeoning demographic growth. The Saudi monarchy hangs by a thread as oil prices fall, and Egypt is a tinderbox. Look for radical Muslims to step up the suicide bombings, literal and metaphoric, in their losing but bloody battle against a West whose technology they crave but do not understand and whose civilization they both despise and envy.
Now for the good: The snitty, twee, “transgressive” (but actually craving of status and power) intellectual Left will become even more culturally marginalized than it is right now. Signs of great hope: Christopher Hitchens’s going postal at his erstwhile comrades at The Nation and the Guardian for their breast-beating over the terrorists and rejoicing at their murders; gay-columnist Andrew Sullivan’s emergence as the nation’s most interesting conservative spokesman; the bestseller status of Bernard Goldberg’s expose of liberal bias at CBS. May you have many years, Chris, Andrew, and Bernie! I predict quite confidently that that we’ll be seeing a lot more of this in 2002.
— Charlotte Allen is author of The Human Christ.
Herewith my predictions for 2002, ranked according to seriousness and probability:
The Pope will come under increasing pressure to more forcefully “choose sides” with the West.
We will go to war with Iraq.
India will go to war with Pakistan.
Iran will move into the sorta-kinda-friendly-to-the-U.S. ally column.
I will finally get around to starting a book; whether publishers will pay for it is a different issue.
The fight over biotech farms will intensify as more land is dedicated to super-crops (which would be a good thing).
National Review Online will feast on the rotting carcass of a defunct Salon.com.
The economy will rebound the moment I take what’s left of my money out of the market.
“Ginger” a.k.a. the segway will do nothing to reshape human civilization but it will definitely become next Christmas’ hottest toy.
Mullah Omar will be caught and in short order the phrase, “punishing the one-eyed cleric” will cause thousands of boarding school boys to titter for weeks.
Financial forensics in the war on terror will reveal that Saudi Arabia is the world’s chief importer of Britney Spears DVDs.
Trial lawyers will declare that hearing the words “smoke” or “cigarette” causes cancer.
A proper hound will make it to the final round at Westminster for the first time.
I will lose 30 pounds and then find them again.
I will get a lavish raise.
— Jonah Goldberg is NRO’s Editor-at-Large.
Mark R. Levin
Heather Has Two Mullahs will be banned from the Marin County Public Library.
Janet Reno will lose the race for governor in Florida; however, she’ll be named the new commissioner of the World Wrestling Federation.
Molly Ivins will actually have an original thought.
Airport landing radar will surpass MSNBC’s nightly viewership.
Ted Kennedy will once again be named “Man of the Year” by the Amphibious Vehicle Manufacturers Association.
Osama bin Laden will not be appearing in the fourth season of CBS’s Survivor.
The New York Observer will double its readership when Joe Conason leaves a copy on the subway.
Yasser Arafat’s next job will be as stunt double for Ringo Starr.
Bill Clinton’s memoirs will be the first presidential autobiography with a centerfold.
— Mark R. Levin is president of Landmark Legal Foundation and an NRO Contributing Editor.
A surprisingly successful missile defense test will occur, which will be met by no repentance on the part of the concept’s naysayers.
Iraq will not be our next target in the war on terrorism.
President Bush’s noble overtures to the Islamic community will do little to curb that community’s manifest distrust of the West, which will be exacerbated as we pursue terrorists in other Arab nations.
I will not replace George Will on ABC’s This Week, but that’s ok because no one else will either, nor should they.
The Dow will rebound nearly to its previous record highs, unless Larry Kudlow decrees otherwise. The Nasdaq will not, no matter what the great Larry Kudlow says.
In a desperate effort to create 41 to 43 déjà vu (Bush-foreign-policy-hero-to-economic-villain), Democratic senators will continue to blaze new paths of creative demagoguery and partisan obstruction. It won’t work because Bush will remain enormously popular through the 2002 elections, even without a major economic recovery. Nevertheless, Bush will have no off-year coattails and neither party will make decisive gains.
Michael Jordan will be among the top ten scorers and will lead the Wizards into the playoffs.
— David Limbaugh is a lawyer, syndicated columnist, and is author of Absolute Power.
Reassured by Kathryn Jean Lopez’s promise that these predictions will be impossible to retrieve from NRO’s archives, here are some of the things I expect to happen in 2002:
Some political developments: Governor Gray Davis is handily reelected in California, so too is Florida governor Jeb Bush. Rudy Giuliani is getting out of City Hall in the nick of time — Mayor Bloomberg will face the huge financial problems in store for NYC. Al Gore shaves his beard when he belatedly realizes that his new look is indistinguishable from the al Queda defendants in the dock at military tribunals. Tom Daschle’s designs on the 2004 nomination suffer an embarrassing setback when he’s unable to prevent the defeat of his South Dakota colleague, Tim Johnson.
It will be scandal time again in Washington when, after months of hounding by congressional Democrats, the AG appoints a special prosecutor to investigate Enron’s demise.
There will be more women in Afghanistan’s post-Taliban government than there are on CNN’s Evans, Novak, Hunt, and Shields.
Finally, Bill and Hillary separate, while George and Laura renew their marriage vows.
— Kate O’Beirne is a National Review Senior Editor.
James S. Robbins
Keeping in mind Ambrose Bierce’s aphorism that nothing is so unexpected as that which actually happens, here are my predictions for 2002:
The economy will surprise everyone. The stock market will move in a dramatic and unforeseen direction, ruining some but profiting many.
In politics, the 2002 election will not go the way the pundits have already planned. Like 1994, few will anticipate the broad social trends that will decide many close races. Election night will be tense.
In sports, a long-standing record, probably in baseball, will again defy all challengers.
In culture, a pop-music phenomenon will arise out of nowhere while last year’s fresh new group disintegrates. An unlikely film will bring notoriety to all involved. The art world will continue to be locked in a death-grip struggle between pointless post-modernism and vulgar consumerism. No great works of literature will be published, as usual.
A celebrity sex scandal will introduce America to a new, tasteless slang expression.
The weather: balmier.
The war will end in total allied victory. But we all know that.
— James S. Robbins is senior fellow in national-security affairs at the American Foreign Policy Council, a trustee for the Leaders for Liberty Foundation, and author of Last in Their Class: Custer, Picket and the Goats of West Point. Robbins is also an NRO contributor.