publisher's note
December 29, 2006



Ruminations on McClanahan and beyond
by Bruce Rodgers

Around this time of year Kansas City Star columnist E. Thomas McClanahan presents his “predictions” column. (His 2007 column hasn’t appeared as of this writing.) I admit that I read McClanahan other times of the year — actually just about every time his column appears — but not because I agree with him. With the exception of his opinions on revitalizing KC’s urban space, I almost always disagree with him.

He doesn’t arouse within this leftist the kind of blood-spitting outrage that I can project at other conservative columnists. Maybe it’s because we’re both vets and there is something about how the camaraderie among those who worn a uniform can transcend ideology. Yet, I don’t remotely share McClanahan’s view “we could have won in Vietnam” or his “it’s all about national security” rhetoric for staying in Iraq.

But he’s an honest conservative not afraid to hang out his beliefs. This in comparison to the newspaper as a whole which consistently appears hemmed in by a history of being so enamored with middle-of-the-road presentations on issues that a level of self-censorship surfaces repeatedly on stories the public should know more about. (But some change may be happening under the McClatchy banner; for example, the editorials against the selection of Phill Kline as Johnson County District Attorney and concern about the widening income gap between rich, middle class and the poor.)

Back to predictions: Here are a few of McClanahan’s 2006 presentiments that didn’t quite turn out, and a few of my own for 2007.

True to “magic of the free market” conservative discipline, McClanahan predicted the Dow would hit 12,000 and it has. He also predicted around a 3 percent economic growth rate and it pretty much has maintained that overall. But his fiscally motivated fortune telling didn’t hold for the stadium tax; McClanahan predicted a voter rejection. Didn’t happen. Also, though he hinted that the Democrats might take one house of Congress, he quickly backed off as he spent a few column inches on Democrats lapsing “into incoherent gibberish” on national security and how Democratic Chairman Howard Dean “remains one of the Republicans’ secret weapons.”

Dean apparently didn’t get that memo. He is now praised for helping engineer the Democratic gains in November by insisting that the party make an effort in every red-state legislative district where there was a viable Democratic challenger.

On Iraq, McClanahan correctly predicted the end of al-Zarqawi. But, sadly, he also said U.S. troop strength would decrease and “the insurgency will begin to ebb…” Here, I would have hoped McClanahan would have been right.

It doesn’t take a journalism degree to see that Iraq isn’t going to get better in 2007, and it doesn’t matter if we “surge” in more troops or pull out immediately or in phases. This war, which may have been sold on the basis of national security, will now be maintained on the basis of helping George W. Bush have some sort of reputation other than “worst president ever.”

Understand this: What Bush has done is a shared mistake with all Americans — we elected the guy in 2004 or, some would argue, let the Supreme Court appoint him in 2000. Impeachment won’t happen unless people take to the streets. So my prediction for 2007 is more of the same deadly mess in Iraq.

With the presidential race gearing up, I predict the “unbearable lightness of being” within Sen. Barack Obama will become apparent and Democrats will gather in the backroom to offer Obama other paths toward greatness.

Meanwhile, Senator Hillary will continue to creep over the political landscape like that red lichen in War of Worlds, consuming the greenbacks in her march toward the nomination. But at her heels, irritating her will be John Edwards. His message will remain simple and consistent, leaving Hillary to constantly steer her belief pot. Edwards could become the Hillary stopper or the one politician who will pin Clinton down as to what she really believes in.

Locally, the 11 KCMO mayoral candidates’ list will narrow. Alvin Brooks will survive the primary with Jim Glover or Becky Nace or John Fairfield his opponent. While the public will wait to hear plans on how to implement Clay Chastain’s light rail plan passed by voters, none of the candidates will step up with anything specific for fear of irritating the business community or conservatives wary of any eminent domain process. Without any debate among the candidates on pushing ahead with light rail planning, the turnout will be depressed and candidates with the most money and endorsements will come out on top. Chastain, ever watchful, will threaten legal action if he doesn’t see some sort of committed plan of action for light rail in 2007.

The Sprint Center will look great, become a landmark, and become a big financial drain on the city. The Power & Light District will initially attract big crowds and lots of enthusiasm despite a laundry list of shopping and entertainment attractions, and confusing parking options. Eventually, PLD will end up like The Great Mall of the Great Plains in Olathe. High rents and low profit margins driving retail tenants away. What will help save both will be the Performing Arts Center and light rail. (Okay, this is a little beyond 2007.)

The public’s anger in all things politically self-serving will continue. The politicians that survive will be those that have a connection to the ordinary and high-minded honesty in their approach to the job. Newly elected Kansas Attorney General Paul Morrison is an example of someone the right or left can vote for because there is no pretense within the man or dominating personal belief system except just doing what the job calls for.

In 2007, the rumble of disenchantment will get louder. Pollsters will be shocked and pundits proven wrong. Those who make casual assumptions about the state of the union or the will of the people will find themselves surprised at the level of discontent.

(Are you listening Democrats?)

Bruce Rodgers can be contacted at


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