eKC feature
December 30, 2005


Looking back and forward
with Tom and Steve
by Bruce Rodgers

For almost a year, Steve Rose, columnist for Johnson County’s Sun newspapers, and E. Tom McClanahan, columnist for The Kansas City Star, have had their “Predictions for 2005” columns pinned to my bulletin board.

McClanahan made more predictions (25) than Rose (8) though they appear to have an equal amount of space in which to write. Maybe Mac Tully, the Star publisher, demanded more predictions from his future-looking columnist.

“Damn McClanahan, predict more,” he might have yelled. “More predictions mean more advertising potential, which mean more revenue. Predict-up a storm!”

Rose probably had no such pressure. The Sun management is still trying to figure out how to get him off the front page and out of the newspaper. Rose’s rapprochement with KCPT, netting him a time slot and show, probably spread joy within the Sun’s corporate ranks.

With St. Joseph-based NPG having bought the Sun group, Rose’s cachet may dim. So here’s my first prediction for 2006: Steve Rose will only stay with the Sun if he can remain on the front page. NPG management will say no, and Rose will depart.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. It’s review time on how accurate these two sages of the mainstream press in Kansas City were in their gazes into the future. Except for the Iraqi elections and President Bush’s Supreme Court choices, there wasn’t much overlap between Rose and McClanahan.

On Iraq, McClanahan — as he’s done throughout the year in his columns — wrote positively about U.S. involvement there and correctly predicted the elections would go well. But he went further and wrote that the election “will substantially undermine a key rationalization for the insurgency.” The three key elections in Iraq have not done that. The insurgency just declares the election process flawed, as it did with the one held in mid-December, and uses that reasoning to continue to stoke the bitter ethic divisions in the country.

Rose was more on target. He declared victory for the Shi’ites and a move toward a theocracy influenced by Iran. Rose could make the same prediction for 2006 and be right.

Interestingly, both Rose and McClanahan are Vietnam-era veterans. Rose seems to have learned from his experience, absorbing the parallels, both in presidential leadership and Pentagon arrogance, in comparing the wars and the possible outcomes.

McClanahan is fighting the facts and history — that the United States lost in Vietnam and it wasn’t because of a lack of military commitment or political courage or media-inspired subterfuge that gave North Vietnam its victory. We lost because it was the wrong war for the wrong reasons, and the public finally saw that it was — forcing the political leadership to bring it to an end.

Americans are reaching the same conclusion with Iraq, and McClanahan resists what is obvious to the majority — according to the latest polls — of Americans. And, I may add, the majority of people in many other countries.

The other common prediction both columnists made was with Supreme Court nominees. Rose predicted “an individual from the very far right…it will be a woman, and a woman with ethnicity, other than Hispanic or African-American.” McClanahan predicted that Bush would nominate Antonin Scalia as chief justice. Both men were wrong.

True to his crony tendencies, Bush nominated Harriet Myers, a white woman thoroughly devoted to the president. When she was shot down because of qualification questions and rumblings from the far right, Bush fell back on the tried-and-true — a white male, Samuel Alito.

Rose also predicted Bush would replace Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. McClanahan said Bush would win approval of his Social Security overhaul. Neither happened. Seems like the only way someone leaves the Bush administration is to quit (like Colin Powell), die or become a political sacrifice to the right (like former Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neil).

McClanahan also made some dire predictions for 2005 that, thankfully, didn’t happen. He said Iran would “explode a nuclear bomb” and that the “U.S. homeland” would suffer under another terrorist attack.

Locally, McClanahan predicted ridership for KC’s Bus-Rapid Transit line would fall below expectations — a no-brainer in this town — and that the downtown ballpark idea would still be “unresolved” by year’s end. He also predicted that Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt “would surprise the skeptics.” How, McClanahan didn’t outline except to hint that the young governor would grow into the job. But being mature doesn’t mean being right.

Rose thought Metcalf South would bite the dust to be replaced by some big-box discounter. That fate went to the old Blue Ridge Mall and TIF supported Wal-Mart. Rose was right about the Kansas Supreme Court admonishing the state legislature concerning school financing. Judges are supposed to be more correct, particularly when dealing with a constitution, than state legislatures — it’s called checks and balances. Republican dominance, both in Kansas and in Congress, only likes that particular civics lesson when it furthers ideologically based policies.

I don’t know if either columnist will write a “Predictions for 2006” column. My guess is yes. Why? Because it’s kinda fun. With that, here are mine, first on the local/regional scene:

• The tax package to upgrade Arrowhead and Kaufmann stadiums will be passed by voters but barely, and after threats are delivered by the teams’ owners that they will leave Kansas City if it doesn’t pass.

• Construction costs for the Sprint arena will continue to balloon and Kansas City will attract yet another hockey team that will move or go bankrupt (like previous teams) within three years. Attracting an NBA team ain’t going happen.

• MARC’s regional tax proposal for public transit system will meet with intense opposition from local fiscal conservatives convinced that the Mid-America Regional Council is big government run amok.

• Seventy-five percent of the leases for the downtown entertainment district will be signed with national chains, and eventually the district will limp along amid charges of no parking and nothing much different to see.

• Claire McCaskill will lose to Sen. Jim Talent in the Missouri U.S. Senate race by a substantial margin. Talent will make McCaskill look like a desperate political opportunist plying a liberal agenda. Talent will continue to be a lackluster senator looking for ways to get out from under the shadow of Kit Bond.

• Moderates will win control of the Kansas State School Board and overall Kansas will see Democratic gains. But Paul Morrison will fail to unseat state Attorney General Phill Kline. Kline will be merciless in his campaign to retain his position and Morrison will take the nice guy route. Propaganda and half-truths will win out.

• All 33 dailies in the Knight Ridder chain will be sold to a Wall Street investment group and journalism as a profession and public watchdog will continue to suffer. The Kansas City Star will continue to shrink its news gathering capability, overworking its disheartened news staff and, instead, keep seeking branding partnerships with other media outlets both radio and TV.

• The Kurds and Shi’ites will cut a deal in Iraq leaving the Sunnis with nothing much to do but fight. Eventually, the country will be partitioned under UN guidance.

• Lobbyist Jack Abramoff will deliver to the courts the largest scandal in Congress the country has seen in a hundred years.

• Despite plenty of calls for impeachment, Bush will ride it out, mainly because the Democrats remain afraid to jeopardize a chance for a return to power, leaving an increasingly conservative judiciary to allow expanding executive powers in place.

• 2006 mid-term elections will see a larger voter turnout than previous years but the presidential voter turnout in 2008 will again be dismal as both political parties nominate known entities, neither of which a woman or Africa American.

• A large and deadly environmental accident will happen putting protecting the environment an issue again in front of the public eye.

• The Gulf coast will again be battered by hurricanes and the loss of New Orleans as a great city will be fully evident…with most of America ambivalent about its fate.

• Illegal immigration will become an issue that will transcend all levels of government, forcing elected officials from local, state and national jurisdictions to address it. Congress will allocate funds to build a wall across the nation’s southern border and it will become an international embarrassment for the United States.

• The U.S Supreme Court will give indications that it will overturn Roe v Wade.

• South America will continue to turn left in its political orientation, affecting U.S. interests in fighting illegal drug importation and corporate ownership and extraction of natural resources. Fidel Castro will die and ironically Cuba will look north for help and stability.

Come Jan. 1, 2007, we’ll see how much I got it right.

Bruce Rodgers can be contacted at publisher_editeKC@kcactive.com.



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