2011 will be a year of controversy and conflict for President Obama, Congress and national politics that will bring revolts within both major political parties and a rising demand for a third-party candidate in 2012.
Here are my major predictions:
1. President Obama will try to surprise the political world by naming a leading national figure as White House chief of staff and a nationally respected Republican to his Cabinet. If these moves are not announced in early 2011, it will be revealed in Bob Woodward's book, if not sooner, that the president extended these offers and they were turned down.
2. Sarah Palin will issue a Sherman statement declaring she will not run for president in 2012, and will instead host a one-hour political talk show on network or cable television that will become the highest-rated political talk show in TV history.
3. There will be a significant nuclear-terrorism scare. Nuclear terrorism will emerge as the leading national security threat to the U.S., Europe and Russia, creating a powerful movement for comprehensive nuclear-security diplomacy.
4. There will be a high-noon showdown over government spending that will bring the federal government to the brink of a shutdown. At the last minute Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) will broker a deal with President Obama because he remembers what happened between Newt Gingrich and Bill Clinton. The deal will anger liberals and conservatives but lead to rising public approval of Boehner.
5. President Obama and both parties will talk about the deficit but only fight for modest action. However, a potential global bond market crash could force far more dramatic deficit reduction, creating a revolutionary political climate as all things sacred are forced onto the table during another financial crisis.
6. The jobless rate at the end of 2011 will remain near 9 percent. The real jobless rate will remain near 16 percent. The cover story of Time magazine in December 2011 will be titled "The Jobless Nation." There will be an explosion of activism from the Democratic base, which will appeal to heartland America and create a progressive revival going into 2012.
7. The big Republican surprise during 2011 will be the emergence of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush as a potential presidential candidate.
8. The rising star senator of 2011 will be Republican Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, who will become an authentic political independent in the Senate. New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg will tease the political market about running for president but will not, creating a groundswell for Murkowski to run in 2012 as an Independent.
9. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will orchestrate and lead a national unity government for Israel that will include all major political parties and involve a substantial compromise proposal Israel will offer the Palestinians in negotiations.
10. A significant "Draft Howard Dean" for president movement will begin among grassroots Democrats. Dean will call on them to disband, but whether a major primary challenge to the president emerges will depend on how far the president moves to triangulate against the Democratic base.
11. The recent WikiLeaks disclosures will be forgotten by early 2011, but WikiLeaks disclosures about financial firms will be the 2011 bombshell. This will be accompanied by major insider-trading indictments that will make financial corruption a cutting-edge national issue.
12. The U.S. military will make steady progress in Afghanistan but there will be no clear end in sight for the mission, and no meaningful troop withdrawals in 2011.
13. Glenn Beck will leave Fox News. Fox will maintain its ratings lead, but MSNBC will gain audience share because of the battles between President Obama and Republicans in Congress. The evening host lineup at MSNBC will remain strong and the coming stars to watch are Willie Geist and Cenk Uygur. The big cable news will be a dramatic shakeup at CNN with a defining corporate decision about its overall direction. "The Larry King Show" will return somewhere on cable television.
14. Names to watch in 2011 include: Colin Powell, whose profile will rise with the Obama administration. Former Nebraska Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel and former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, who will either take high-level posts with Obama or be mentioned as Independent presidential candidates along with Murkowski. Incoming Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, who will join the top tier of potential GOP vice presidential nominees for 2012.
Let me close 2010 by offering my thanks to all who read my columns and take the time to comment (whether you agree with me or not!). I hope you are all having a very happy holiday season, and I know we are all going to have a very interesting new year!