Is there any way the coming year will top the past 12 months for political bombshells or other major news events?
Chances are, the answer is "no," particularly in the area of politics. There have been only two presidential impeachment actions in the history of this nation, and even though Bill Clinton has provided one shocker after another, it is difficult to imagine anything, other than a resignation, that would top the impeachment story.
Following are some hunches or guesses about what may take place in the next 12 months.
- Campaigns for the 2000 elections already are under way with GOP leaders searching for presidential hopefuls. On the other side of the political fence, Democrats, at least publicly, will try to show respect for Clinton but will be paying more attention to whomever will be the Democratic standard-bearer in the 2000 presidential race.
Clinton will try to minimize any talk of being a "lame duck" president, but facts are facts. Because he is entering the last phase of his presidency and because he is known to lie and be a person who cannot be trusted, many Democratic candidates for national and state offices will try to keep a respectful distance from Clinton.
He will continue to be a major fund-raiser for his party, and he will present a brave, confident public front, but he knows his presidency is coming to an end and that he has been disgraced and he will use every means to try to present a strong, vigorous image.
- The Senate is not likely to impeach the president, but the big challenge will be to arrive at some kind of suitable punishment. GOP leaders are mindful that a "censure" can be revoked by future Congresses, erasing this mild black mark from his record. They want a permanent and heavy penalty imposed on the president.
- Kansas Gov. Bill Graves will start his next four years as governor with the greatest voter support in the state's history. It is likely he will use this public support as a foundation to propose challenging goals for the state and its residents. Education will be one of his major targets, and he will ask legislators and taxpayers to approve costly proposals to raise the levels of excellence both in kindergarten through 12th grade and at the state's universities and community colleges.
- KU officials will become much more active and effective in telling the KU story throughout the state and will be more aggressive in recruiting top-flight students and superior faculty members.
- United States troops will continue to be stationed in or near hot spots around the world because this positioning of Uncle Sam's forces will be used to an even greater degree to impose truces and cease-fires. Administration spokespeople will point to Bosnia as an example of a successful peacekeeping mission, but, in reality, it is more of a cease-fire, with fighting likely to flare up just as soon as U.S. forces are withdrawn.
- There is likely to be a heated election for three Lawrence City Commission seats. Three incumbents are not expected to seek re-election, and there is the danger special interest groups will look at these openings as an opportunity to elect individuals who are more dedicated to groups with narrow interests than to representing the community as a whole.
- It is probable that meaningful progress will be made early in the coming year to restart the South Lawrence Trafficway project.
- The public will gradually come to realize the importance of a good, clean supply of water. Eventually, water will become this nation's most precious natural resource. Lawrence officials will start to do what they can to insure and improve the city's supply of clean water. City officials probably will put added pressure on cities upstream to clean up the discharges from their cities.
At the same time, city officials along the Kansas River need to be alert to efforts by cities such as Wichita, which would like to siphon water from the Kaw to meet their thirsty needs.
- Although there is talk about the need for bipartisan cooperation in Congress, particularly after the Clinton matter is settled, the partisanship will be just as intense, even more so.
Each party will be trying to position itself to appeal to voters in the 2000 elections. Unfortunately, doing what is right probably will be overshadowed by doing what is likely to be the most popular with voters.
Hopefully, Bill Graves will not resort to polls to determine what issues he should push in Kansas.
- The coming millennium should make 1999 an exciting year, but the scars, bitterness and angry fall-out from the past few years of the Clinton presidency will likely carry over to the new year. Consequently, there isn't much chance for a positive, cooperative attitude among many in this country. Each will be blaming the other for problems with far too little effort and time being devoted to trying to arrive at fair, workable solutions to many of our national problems.
It's the time of year to wish each other "Happy New Year," but this is not going to come about unless citizens make a genuine effort to get along with each other and demand a return to decency, honesty and high moral personal behavior. Otherwise, the millennium could be marked by an even more divided country with few well-intentioned citizens seeking public office. It is not a healthy climate for our country and its citizens.