Four Political Predictions for 2013

I gave my market predictions this week in my column. Here are some things I expect to happen in politics this year both here and overseas.

1. The fight over the debt ceiling will be nastier than many people think. President Obama didn’t get a great deal to avert the fiscal cliff, and his liberal supporters are bitching that he’s given the store away yet again. (Paul Krugman actually called him a “wimp.”)

But Republicans are livid: They just voted to abandon 20 years of refusing to raise taxes on anyone and got almost no spending cuts in return. Eminent conservative writer Charles Krauthammer called the deal “a complete surrender on everything.

So, Republicans, especially Tea Party House members, are looking for their pound of flesh, and they plan to take their stand on raising the debt ceiling, as they did in 2011. They will no doubt look to extract much more in automatic spending cuts beyond the $1 trillion agreed upon in the notorious “sequester. “

Problem is, President Obama has reiterated several times that he just won’t go there; he will simply refuse to negotiate on the debt limit. If he keeps his word—as I think he will—we could easily have a repeat of the shut-the-government-down battle between Newt Gingrich and Bill Clinton in the mid-1990s. And that had disastrous consequences.

2. The president won’t get much of his agenda through Congress this year.  There’s such bad blood between the president and House Republicans and between Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill that the atmosphere is beyond dysfunctional. On Wednesday Politico reported that House Speaker John Boehner told Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to go f—k himself—in the White House, no less–and then bragged about it. Oh, behave!

President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden in the White House on New Year’s night after the House passed a bill to settle the “fiscal cliff.” Photo: YouTube.

Once the ugly debt ceiling battle is over (see above), the president’s political capital will be almost shot and Republicans will have little incentive to work with him, except on one thing—immigration. There they have a compelling self-interest to come up with a compromise immigration reform bill this year—they want to keep from losing more than the 70%+ of Hispanic and Asian voters President Obama won against Mitt Romney last year.

But don’t look for much in the way of gun control, even in the wake of Newtown: The assault weapons ban is a big stretch, as would be closing the lucrative gun show loophole.  The most that can be expected, I think, is some control of high-capacity magazines and tighter background checks for mentally ill individuals. Beyond that, pure politics unfortunately will prevent sensible regulation.

3. Netanyahu’s re-election will give him a free hand on Iran.  Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s opposition has collapsed and his top coalition partner, Avigdor Lieberman, is facing criminal charges.  So, Netanyahu may pull off the neat trick of getting all the combined votes of the Likud-Beiteinu coalition without the albatross of the extremist  Lieberman in his cabinet.

No matter—Netanyahu has already aligned himself with hard-line settler parties and has pushed for more Jewish settlements in disputed areas as peace hopes with the Palestinians fade. He’s likely to keep his own counsel when it comes to dealing with Iran’s nuclear program, although he’d probably want to accelerate deployment of the Iron Dome missile defense system before launching any pre-emptive attack against Iran.

I’m not predicting that will happen—it’s truly unpredictable in every sense of that word—but if it does,  I expect the US to give Israel logistical support but not join any attack directly.

4. Late in the year, Hillary Clinton will announce she’s not running for president. She’s the odds-on favorite, but this latest incident—a fall, concussion and blood clot near the brain—may have a profound effect on her.

Hillary Clinton speaks in July 2012. Photo: Department of State.

She’s traveled nearly a million miles as secretary of state, but she would be 69 on Election Day 2016 having gone through another grueling presidential campaign. Then she would assume the most stressful job in the world at the same age Ronald Reagan did.

Brushes with mortality have a way of concentrating the mind. I believe that after a much-needed year of rest, she will decide she wants to be a grandmother (and Supreme Court Justice?), travel, speak and write rather than be president of the United States.

What do you think will happen in 2013? Please make a comment and discuss my predictions or make some of your own!

Happy New Year!



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