2007 A LOOK FORWARD - THE SUNDAY COMMENTARY
First the obvious for 2007.
The 08 Presidential race - With 2008 bringing with it the seemingly never ending campaigning that accompanies a Presidential election year, the positioning for that run will begin in earnest. 2007 will find Giuliani, McCain, Romney, Hillary, Biden and Obama making their candidacy official. The possibles who will join the list consist of Huckabee, Gingrich, Kerry and Gore. Though Kerry seems one who should be on the obvious list, there have been a number of incidents in recent months including his insult of the troops and his unpopular visit to Iraq that could actually cause him pause in running. In the end though his arrogance and his own conviction that he, "deserves, " the Presidency will push him into the race. Gingrich and Gore will depend upon reaction to their feelers in the first few months of 2007. Of the two Gingrich is the most likely to enter the race but Gore is gaining popularity for a run because of his highly touted global warming fantasies.
Saddam Hussein - With the dictator dead it may seem odd that he makes the list of obvious 2007 predictions but like a bad penny he will not go away for several reasons. The foremost reason is because of the Iraqi people themselves. His brutal reign as dictator for more than 30 years over Iraq has left very large and lasting scars on the country. There will be a large number of Iraqis who even faced with video and photographic evidence of his execution as well as a grave bearing his name will still believe that this persona of evil is alive and will find a way to return to power. For many in the country it will take some time for the truth of his demise to sink in and the acceptance that he is gone to allow them to live without the fear of his return. A secondary reason is because of the conspiracy theorists which have already started fanning the flame that the execution was one of Hussein's many doubles and that he is alive and well and drinking Pina' Colladas somewhere outside of Iraq waiting for the opportune moment to return. With the emergence already of the conspiracies 2007 will be filled with Saddam sightings and stories of where he living and with whom he is meeting to prepare for his return to Iraq.
The minimum wage - This has become the agenda cry of the incoming Democrats as they tell of what they plan to do in the first 100 days as leaders in Congress. Shortly after they take control the House will present and pass an expected raise in the minimum wage allowing an increase of more than two dollars over the next two years. While its passage will take more time in the Senate since the balance between parties is much closer than in the House the support for the raise has strong backing in the Senate and should pass will bipartisan support. President Bush has unfortunately already indicated that he too supports the raise with certain incentives for small business which are not likely with a Democrat Congress but in the spirit of showing his bipartisanship at the onset of Democrat Congressional leadership, Bush will sign the bill.
Now a few not so obvious.
Iraq - While many are trying to portray Iraq as a lost cause and that United States presence in the country should cease to exist the truth of the matter is that there is still much work to be done and that the work requires the continued presence of the United States in order for the work to be completed. There are lingering questions as to the immediate future of the US in Iraq bouncing back and forth between a, "surge, " ( where did they come up with this word for a troop increase ?), of US troops to quell the situation in the Sunni Triangle area and an increase in diplomatic measures especially concerning Iran and Syria. As the President is leaning to an increase of around 30, 000 troops the, "surge, " seems likely. The diplomatic overtures that are being discussed depends greatly on political pressure here at home. Bush is against negotiating with Iran and Syria over Iraq or anything else for that matter for which I give him kudos since we do not need to be negotiating with these two terror states. Yet political pressure is mounting for negotiations and as that pressure increases Bush may fall to it and at least send lower level diplomats as feelers to both countries then eventually Condi Rice and an official US delegation. Again all of this is still up in the air but as 2007 progresses the full direction of US policy in Iraq will better reveal itself.
The economy - While the increase in the minimum wage will have an adverse effect of the economy as the raise is implemented and business reacts to the increase with labor changes in the form of cut backs in hiring and downsizing of employees to meet the forced increase in labor costs, the full extent of the effect on the economy will not take effect until the raise begins attacking consumer prices through increases brought on by higher labor costs. The effect on slowing the economy or not will depend on consumer confidence in the economy at the time and whether consumers feel comfortable enough in their own pockets with the price increases to continue spending at the healthy pace that has been the case over the last few years. Another indicator of the 2007 economic picture will be the housing market. While it has shown signs of slowing over the last months of 2006 each time it has slowed the next month followed with increases that not only countered the previous months slow down but actually increased the housing market. Again consumer comfort in their own finances and well being will determine if housing will continue at the record pace it has kept in recent years. The stock market will vary with world situations and the legislation that is presented by a Democrat Congress. Wall Street is taking a look and see attitude as they anticipate what Democrats will do, so their reaction will be based on future legislation and how that legislation will effect the market at the time. Oil prices will depend on futures market reaction to world crises that erupt in 2007 and also on how greedy OPEC will be if the price of a barrel of oil begins to drop again.
Hurricanes - There will be hurricanes. If any of those who predict the numbers for any hurricane season and 2007 is no exception were to actually admit the truth the only prediction that any of them can make is that next years hurricane season will produce hurricanes. Now as to numbers and intensity that depends only upon ocean temperatures and upper level air currents at the time and if any of these dire hurricane weather sooth sayers were honest in their assessment of future activity they would admit that we will have them and stop trying to scare the coastal residents with numbers and strength predictions which only succeed in fear mongoring and driving up the price of insurance on the coast.
The President - Bush and 2007 all depends on whether he has resigned himself to being a lame duck President or if he still believes even with a Democrat Congress that he has the ability to govern and have a strong Presidency or one that weakly bows to the Congress through compromise after compromise. Ronald Reagan proved that even with a majority from the other party controlling Congress that by creating a coalition within the opposition Democrat party that leaned toward a more conservative agenda a President could get what he wanted passed in Congress. Bush seems to believe that his only option is to work with the leadership and follow their lead in legislating. If that is the case then he will be a lame duck President and much of 2007 will find him ineffective from that stand point. If he does lead and works the Congress as Reagan did then the strength of his leadership will shape legislation that emerges from even a Democrat Congress in 2007.
One final item for 2007 is the shape of the Senate. This all depends upon the recovery of Senator Tim Johnson from South Dakota who had emergency brain surgery earlier in December. If he recovers and is able to complete his term then the Senate will remain in Democrat control. If on the other hand he cannot then South Dakota Republican Governor Mike Rounds will appoint a Republican to fill the vacant seat thus changing the makeup of the Senate to 50/50 causing both parties to equally share in all leadership and committee positions and the Vice President would then become the deciding vote in the case of a tie.
As in any change of years from one to another in the continued advancement of time on this planet that we all share, predictions are just predictions and the year will play out as it will despite what anyone speculates or contemplates. So as we begin the eighth year of the 21st century may it be a prosperous one for each of you and please accept my wish for each of you for a very Happy New Year!