A year-end office pool quiz: Place your bets for 2021
By David Ignatius,
After a dark and deadly year like 2020, who would dare make New Year’s predictions — especially in a fanciful multiple-choice quiz? But as the late, great Bill Safire, who created the year-end “Office Pool” in his New York Times column, once wrote: “The audacity of hope springs eternal.”
Place your bets for 2021. As President-elect Joe Biden would say, this is a “one-horse pony.” Any inaccurate predictions will be pardoned. (My guesses are at the bottom.)
1) On Dec. 31, 2021, Donald Trump will be: a) president of the United States, still clinging to power under an executive order to quell an “insurrection”; b) living in exile in Neom, Saudi Arabia, as the guest of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman; c) issuing “Stop the Steal” communiques to a would-be guerrilla army that has more FBI informants than MAGA militiamen; d) negotiating a plea agreement with New York District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr.
2) North Korea’s Kim Jong Un will celebrate 2021 by: a) renewing nuclear-weapons and missile testing; b) secretly buying an NBA franchise he plans to call the “Dear Leaders”; c) meeting with Trump in the Maldives and sharing his list of 11 foolproof ways to prevent an election from being “stolen”; d) installing a neon sign that mysteriously appears atop the tallest building in Pyongyang with the words: “Tr mp Hotel.”
3) The breakout bestseller of 2021 will be: a) “Hot Blood,” by Karim Sadjadpour, examining the relationship between radicalism and sexuality from the Crusades to Islamists to White nationalists; b) “The Final Days of Trump and First Days of Biden,” by Bob Woodward and Robert Costa; c) “Crazytown: A History of Trump’s Washington,” by Peter Baker and Susan Glasser; d) “The Return of Inspector O,” a spy story about Trump and Kim by “James Church,” the pseudonym of the intelligence community’s former top Korea expert; e) “Undelivered,” by Jeff Nussbaum, a compilation of the greatest speeches never made, such as Ike’s planned proclamation if the D-Day landing had failed.
4) Iran’s surprise development will be: a) a popular protest against corruption following the Biden administration’s gradual easing of sanctions; b) a deepening military dictatorship as Revolutionary Guard alumni Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf and Parviz Fattah compete to succeed Hassan Rouhani as president in June 2021; c) a comeback bid by former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is derailed by jealous rivals; d) a “voluntary” cap on uranium enrichment in exchange for European loans.
5) With China dominating the foreign policy agenda for the new Biden administration, the hardest issue will be: a) how to counter Chinese pressure on Taiwan and whether to continue the Trump administration’s arms sales there; b) whether to loosen controls on U.S. technology sales to Beijing in exchange for Chinese agreements on climate change; c) whether to drop an extradition request to Canada for Huawei senior executive Meng Wanzhou, creating an off-ramp for the U.S. and Chinese dispute over the technology giant; d) whether to invest in a 5G technology consortium that could counter Huawei in the United States and Europe, as urged by Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.).
6) The game-changing new weapon of 2021 will be: a) Russia’s “Tsirkon” hypersonic anti-ship missile; b) China’s development of truly unbreakable codes through “quantum encryption”; c) Russian and Chinese killer satellites orbiting the Earth, such as the Cosmos 2542 and 2543 tested by Russia in 2020; d) U.S. development of new laser systems that can be fired from land, sea and air to counter many of the other “game changers.”
7) As Turkey’s renegade President Recep Tayyip Erdogan contemplates his growing problems at home and abroad, he’ll opt for: a) downgrading his relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin to establish a working relationship with Biden; b) quietly accepting a multibillion-dollar fine on Turkey’s Halkbank for violating Iran sanctions; c) holding secret negotiations with Syrian Kurdish YPG forces linked to the “terrorist” PKK group, with quiet U.S. mediation; d) allowing legal action against his son-in-law and former finance minister Berat Albayrak (a Jared Kushner pal) as a demonstration of his break with Trump.
8) The Biden administration’s hardest Middle East conundrum will be: a) whether to retaliate against Iranian-backed Shiite militias in Iraq as they double down on efforts to drive the United States from Baghdad; b) how to respond to Afghanistan’s pleas for military help as the Taliban sweeps back to power; c) how to reduce U.S. military ties with Saudi Arabia without allowing Russia and China to fill the void; d) when to publicize secret back-channel talks with Iran.
My answers: 1) d; 2) a; 3) all; 4) b; 5) a; 6) d; 7) c; 8) b
Read more: Molly Roberts: 2020 was the worst year, except for all the others The Post’s View: 20 good things that happened in 2020 Marc A. Thiessen: The 10 worst things Trump did in 2020 Marc A. Thiessen: The 10 best things Trump did in 2020 George F. Will: The sensitivity sweepstakes of 2020