To err is human. To err twice a week, you have to be a columnist.
In 2012, I cemented my reputation as a pundit by making some notable blunders — predicting, for example, that the presidential election would be too close to call. The race was "unpredictable," I wrote, "razor close."
Surely, I consoled myself, 2013 would be better. A year without a presidential election seemed certain to provide fewer opportunities for errors that would require an end-of-the-year apology.
But as it turned out, my crystal ball went cloudy even before January was over.
As Obama's inauguration neared, I wrote optimistically about how both sides in Washington had learned important lessons. After four years, I noted, the president was "a very different politician" than before: more realistic, more skilled and equipped with a resounding mandate from his election victory.
His opponents were wiser too, I opined. Chastened by defeat, "a smarter
I even ventured that a "grand bargain" — a deal that would raise taxes, cut spending and trim the federal deficit — was "more possible this year than any time since 2010."
"There's been gradual movement toward the center on the substance of the budget as well as the politics," I wrote. "Leaders on both sides know how to get to an agreement — or, more precisely, how not to get there — because they've tried so many routes before. Both sides in the fight are older, sadder and wiser."
Obama must have agreed because he devoted several evenings to long dinners with Republican senators in pursuit of that elusive bargain.
Alas, we were both wrong. The bipartisan moment never came. A modest economic upturn made the deficit a little smaller, and the momentum toward a compromise collapsed.
By October, my "smarter Republican Party" had fallen back under the
And that skillful, seasoned president? His biggest legislative priorities —
In at least one instance, though, I was happy to be wrong. Early in the year, I wrote that we were headed toward another crisis over
My track record identifying early trends for the 2016 election already looked spotty, two years before the opening rounds. I identified Sen.
I did get some things right, though.
I realized early that the House Republicans were going to be difficult for Speaker
Even before the calamitous launch of Obamacare, I warned that the healthcare law would remain the focus of political battle and might not be accepted as settled law for years.
And I was unfortunately right about Obama's inconstant foreign policy, especially in Syria, where the president's desire to push
"Obama's rhetoric tends to outrun his willingness to use U.S. power — and that's a problem, because it can lead to dangerous misunderstandings," I wrote. "He often sounds like his
The year taught one more lesson: Politics and world affairs aren't everything. Among readers, the most popular column I wrote was a tribute to my mother (and one-person focus group), Lois McManus, of Greenbrae, Calif. But even with my own mother, I couldn't get everything right. In the column about her, I reported that at the age of 87, she had decided to give her final piano concert. That's what she said at the time. Wrong again! She's 88 now — and practicing for another performance.