Calvin Trillin describes the rotating pundits on Sunday-morning panel shows as "Sabbath gasbags", and his terminology may be overly generous; there's no wheel in existence big enough to grind all these axes. When they are wrong, it's usually enough to crack a smile, and when they're really wrong their 1998 election predictions ranged from way off base to completely out of the ballpark it's a cause for celebration. Then again, it wouldn't at all be fair for me to snipe at the Gasbags without noting that my own prescience, over the past three years of Venting, has been something less than infallible. A few items that may yet come back to haunt me:
April 13, 1996:
"This week, Yahoo!, exclamation point proudly in place, offered stock to the public at thirteen bucks a share, and the public went into a veritable stampede, bidding the price up close to a startling $40 before things settled off at a still-implausible $33."
Yahoo! eventually rose to $445 a share before its second stock split in less than a year, and closed last Friday at $317.
June 1, 1996:
"Whitewater...is where the President is truly vulnerable. Sticking by your friends is no longer considered a family value, what with the War on (fill in your favorite vice here) glorifying snitches, but what makes this particular scandal worth exploiting is money."
We all know how this one came out, don't we?
January 25, 1997:
"Now I have nothing whatever against authentic beauties, even in Serious Electronic Journalist positions the last item on my home page portrays one of the hosts of GMA Sunday (hint: it's not Kevin Newman), who has actually been a model but there's always that little nagging voice in the back of my mind that has the nerve to ask if ABC would have hired someone for the job who looked more like Love Canal than like Willow Bay."
The lovely and talented Ms Bay, of course, has jumped to CNN, though husband Robert Iger remains holding the reins at ABC. As for the weekday version of GMA, it's about to be renovated once again, and this time neither of the hosts will be Kevin Newman.
February 24, 1997:
"In the past, I have argued that the tools to balance the [federal] budget were readily available; all that was needed was the sheer will. I still believe the tools are at hand, but sheer will is conspicuous by its absence."
Fiscal '98, according to the Treasury, concluded with a surplus of $70 billion, some five years ahead of schedule.
June 8, 1997:
"The Sixth Amendment to the Constitution requires only that trials be public. It does not require that they be part of a media circus. Television, by playing ringmaster, does us a substantial disservice. Typically, we reward them for it."
Of course, now we get an important trial you can be certain kids will be bored out of their skulls in 2075 learning about the Clinton impeachment - but the networks won't carry it, lest a passel of sloping-skull types call in to whine about missing Days of Our Lives.
September 22, 1997:
"Bud Paxson has even bigger ideas. He's offering space on his network to Hollywood producers, as an outlet for programs that the Big Four or the Smallish Two won't take and that don't fit into any cable network's plans. This could mean anything from game-show reruns to pilots that somehow missed the cut; Bud Paxson says he's more interested in selling the space than in judging the material."
What it seems to mean, judging by the first season of Pax TV, is All Touched By An Angel, All The Time.
June 22, 1998:
"At the beginning of the 21st century, information is king; as consumers of information, we owe it to ourselves to find out if the king is dressed in the emperor's new clothes. For this sort of research, Brill's Content looks to be one of the quintessential tools."
Well, it still could be, but Steven Brill is definitely short on scoops these days. The current issue pushes mostly a scheme to have CBS News merge with CNN to create mega-competition for NBC and its cable affiliates.
November 17, 1998:
"And so now the House is called to order by that (usually) genteel fellow from Louisiana, Bob Livingston."
Uh, no, it isn't.