It's the day of the year pundits love most -- the day we get to predict and opine to our heart's content with no consequences. No one's likely to remember a year later that not a word we said came true, so here goes: Linda's List of Less-Than-Likely Occurrences for 2004:
After winning the New Hampshire primary, the Iowa Caucus, and sweeping five of the six primaries held Feb. 3, Howard Dean stunned supporters by announcing that he was divorcing his wife of 23 years in order to enter a "civil union" with multi-billionaire George Soros. Asked how he thought this might affect his chances of beating President Bush in November, the often acerbic Democrat noted, "I let the cat out of the bag months ago when I announced I was a metrosexual, only you guys weren't smart enough to pick up on it. Just kidding -- not that there's anything wrong with it. Anyway, people understand that I must do everything in my power to defeat this maniac in the White House. It's the least I can do to save my country."
Soros, who is the 38th-wealthiest man alive according to Forbes magazine, has already announced that he will spend whatever it takes to defeat Bush, and it is widely assumed that Dean's controversial move is nothing more than a way of gaining access to Soros' billions.
Aides to the near-certain Democratic nominee told reporters that Dean had first explored adding Soros to the ticket as his vice president but then realized that Soros was ineligible because he is not American-born, as required under the Constitution. There is no word yet where the couple will make their residence. Dean signed "civil unions" legislation as governor of Vermont in 1999, but the state is not a community property state, making it difficult for Dean to access Soros' big bucks for his campaign unless he changes state residency.
Of course, Sen. John Kerry had hoped to use his wife's fortune to fund his campaign as well but found campaign finance laws would not allow it. Teresa Kerry is heir to the Heinz ketchup fortune left to her by her late husband, Sen. John Heinz, but the money is tied up in various trust funds. Sen. Kerry mortgaged his home in Boston's prestigious Beacon Hill neighborhood for $6 million in December 2003, in order to stay in the race. But after his poor showing in the early Democratic primaries, Kerry withdrew. Just before the Democratic Convention, Kerry was arrested in a motorcycle chop-shop sting. Apparently, Kerry, who frequently rode his motorcycle during his campaign in order to demonstrate he was not the uptight Brahmin he appeared, took up with a bad crowd after his embarrassing loss to Howard Dean. Unable to pay back his mortgage on his $154,000-year Senate salary, Kerry started heisting motorcycle parts to pay his debt. No word yet on whether Kerry will resign his Senate seat.
The White House was not immune from political scandals in 2004, either, when it was discovered that President George W. Bush had been regularly receiving Botox injections to keep him from accidentally smirking during the presidential debates. Worried that Bush's curled lip might be misinterpreted as unsportsmanlike conduct by the coveted soccer-mom cohort, the White House physician gave the president a few strategically placed injections to prevent any accidental snarls. Unfortunately, actress Cher, who is very familiar with the effects of too many Botox injections, tipped off White House correspondent Andrea Mitchell, who raised the issue during the president's only press conference of 2004. Even though the news conference had been called to announce the capture of Osama, Botox -- not bin Laden -- led the evening news.
And on New Year's Eve 2004 came the most surprising story of the year. Bill Clinton, long rumored to be disenchanted with his status as ex-president and Senate spouse, announced that he would challenge Hillary for her New York Senate seat in 2006. The former president was said to have been particularly miffed when Alfred A. Knopf rejected his long-awaited memoir even though the publisher had paid a $10 million advance. A spokesman for Knopf said the manuscript was "too wordy and wonkish and, besides, Americans are more interested in Hillary than Bill these days." No word yet on whether the former president will run as a Democrat or on the state's Liberal Party ticket.