Donald Rumsfeld Is Wrong

Predicting the future is a touchy business, especially if you’re banking on the outcome. Our writer reports on a personal history of predictions gone right, wrong, and somewhere in between.

And you can’t predict the future, you just simply cannot do that, so why bother?
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld at the Defense Department Operational Briefing, Thursday, April 15, 2004

Date: July 4, 1978

Scenario: Eight years old, I escape the family backyard barbecue to a vacant lot for some illicit Fourth of July fun. My second cousin, Thomas, attempts to coax me into playing ‘Who Can Hold On to the Lit Firecracker the Longest?’

Prediction: To Thomas. ‘No way, man, you’re going to blow your hand off.’

Accuracy of prediction: Mostly true. Thomas loses one and a half fingers (index and part of middle) when he’s distracted by ‘something shiny’ after lighting Black Cat Ladyfinger firecracker.

Glad I bothered to predict the future? Yes. I have all of my fingers.

Glad I’d also learned to apply direct pressure to a bleeding wound during a classroom safety demonstration? Also, yes.

* * *

Date: May 12, 1985

Scenario: Spring Dance, freshman year of high school. I’m screwing up my courage to ask Jody Smithson to ‘get down’ to K.C. and the Sunshine Band’s ‘Play That Funky Music (White Boy),’ which I am reasonably certain will lead to our taking a break from the dance floor to go outside and get some air, and my making the bold move of trying to kiss a girl using my tongue for the first time.

Prediction: To best friend, Rob. ‘I’m going to get some of that’ (pointing at Jody across gym).

Accuracy of prediction: Catastrophically and psyche-damagingly wrong. After dancing for approximately 30 seconds, Jody indicates she feels sick.

My response: ‘Are you going to puke? I could hold your hair.’ (No, I can’t explain it to this day. Please don’t ask.)

Her response: Flat-out sprint from gym, not to be seen again that night. Afterward, she started a rumor that I had some kind of vomit fetish, which seriously damaged my social life all the way into my early 20s.

Glad I bothered to predict the future? No, not so much. Rob was not sympathetic. We are not friends anymore.

* * *

Date: Nov. 3, 1994

Scenario: Around 3 a.m., at a Las Vegas bachelor party for ‘anonymous friend.’ The details are hazy, but four of us are playing two-dollar blackjack in one of the off-brand casinos. (‘Slots of Fun?’ Something like that). Also we may just be a teensy bit drunk. ‘Anonymous friend’ suggests maybe we should ‘get some hookers.’

Prediction: To ‘anonymous friend.’ ‘No way dude, you’re going to get the clap or something.’

Accuracy of prediction: 100% accurate, if you count crabs as, ‘or something.’

Glad I bothered to predict the future? Neutral. I wasn’t the one itching his crotch through his entire wedding ceremony.

* * *

Date: April 9, 2003

Scenario: In living room, watching news footage of United States military assisting Iraqis in pulling down giant bronze statue of Saddam Hussein after successful occupation of Baghdad.

Prediction: To wife. ‘Doesn’t it seem like it was too easy? Could it really be that easy? I hope it really is that easy, but I don’t think it could be that easy. Could it?’

Accuracy of prediction: Clearly not that easy, Mr. Secretary.

Glad I bothered to predict the future? Not particularly, but I sure wish our government had.


TMN contributing writer John Warner’s first novel, The Funny Man was recently published by Soho Press. He teaches at the College of Charleston and is co-color commentator for The Morning News Tournament of Books. More by John Warner