Pure wit.

Ed Meese predicted that the Raiders will win the Super Bowl in 1991.

Brock Adams predicted that the recession will wind down in nine months.

Jack Kemp predicted that Bill Bennett will change jobs during the year.

Bennett predicted that the Buffalo Bills will win the Super Bowl.

Al Haig predicted that Harold Stassen will run again, and be elected.

Bill Miller predicted that a horse will win the Kentucky Derby.

And Richard Cheney said that, although as the incumbent secretary of defense he should not make any predictions at all, he would nevertheless predict that "within the next 30 days Al Haig, Bill Bennett and Jack Kemp will be called back to active duty."

"If Secretary Cheney's prediction gets back to Saddam Hussein," cracked James Burnley, "he will never give up Kuwait."

That got a big laugh from the roughly 60 former and (a few) current Cabinet officials and their spouses at a luncheon yesterday in their honor given by hotelier Marshall Coyne at his Madison Hotel. This year seats were assigned by random drawing at eight tables named for Santa's reindeer, and Coyne quipped in a little pre-lunch speech that last year it hadn't worked out all that great when spouses were seated separately and Ann Dore McLaughlin's husband, John, found himself the only man among them.

The idea to have these graying honchos make extemporaneous predictions for the coming year -- which please God has somehow got to be better than the last one but probably isn't going to be -- came from former agriculture secretary John Block, who started this President's Cabinet Club in 1981.

It was strictly Reagan people then, was later expanded to include Bush people, and this year was made comprehensive and bipartisan starting with officials from the Johnson administration. Guests received little Christmas packages that included a bottle of champagne, a White House tree ornament and other goodies. Coyne described the repast as consisting of "stuffed veal with mushrooms ... those Japanese mushrooms, whatever they are."

Former secretary of state William P. Rogers, looking around the banquet room and observing that it was his first time at the now traditional lunch, quoted Ursula Meese to the effect that, "They sure come out of the woodwork, don't they?"

There were serious predictions too, of course. Orville Freeman (former Ag. Sec.) predicted that the GATT round of talks will be resurrected and we will continue moving toward freer trade, Bennett (former Ed. Sec.) that culture and values will become the hew "hot issues," and Clayton Yeutter (Ag. Sec.) that Gorbachev will last through 1991.


Everybody applauded when Louis Sullivan (HHS Sec.) predicted that Americans will stop smoking by the end of 1991, but he didn't mean it.

There was a lot of optimism on the subject of possible war. Miller (former Treas. Sec.) predicted that Kuwait would be free by the end of 1991, Richard Schweiker (former HHS Sec.) that "peace will break out in the gulf," and Claude Brinegar (former Trans. Sec.) that we won't have a shooting war there and that oil will be under $20 a barrel by next summer.

"My prediction," said William Webster (CIA) with a smile, "is highly classified, but you'd like it."

Politics was the next favorite topic.

Clifford Hardin (former Ag. Sec.) predicted that 96 percent of Congress will be reelected.

Maurice Stans (former Comm. Sec.) that George Bush will be reelected on a recount. Don't these guys have the wrong year?

Rogers (former State Sec.) that Haig will run on the Republican ticket and George McGovern on the Democratic.

William Coleman (former DOT Sec.) that Kemp (HUD Sec.) will be chief of staff.

Robert Wood (former HUD Sec.) that "whatever happens to Kemp, HUD will survive."

Margaret Heckler (former HHS Sec.), who arrived after all the other guests had left, sat down for a cup of coffee with Coyne and Block.

"Fasten your seat belt in every area," she said. "We'll make out fine, but we're in for some rough sledding."