October Surprise

OCTOBER SURPRISE….In honor of Christopher Hitchens’ despair over Teresa Heinz Kerry’s remarks that she “wouldn’t be surprised” if the Bushies suddenly sprung a freshly captured Osama bin Laden on an awed world a few weeks before the election, I dedicate this post to the subject of October Surprises.

See, I actually wrote a piece about October Surprises for the Monthly, but in the end I couldn’t find the right balance between snarkiness and seriousness and it never found its way into print. But Mark Green is running a “Name the October Surprise” contest, so what better time to resurrect it?

Not the whole gruesome thing, of course. Instead, here’s the barebones top ten eight list of possible October Surprises (note that this was originally written in April):

  1. Saddam goes on trial ? televised live on Fox!

  2. Osama is captured (or defrosted or whatever)

  3. Karl Rove kills Ronald Reagan

  4. The long lost WMD is finally found

  5. John Kerry gums up progress at the UN

  6. Bush makes a deal with North Korea

  7. George Soros crashes the U.S. economy

  8. Donald Rumsfeld resigns

As you can see, #3 was overtaken by events, so it’s really a top seven list. (And no, I don’t think Karl Rove was responsible. At least, um, I don’t think so.)

It’s worth noting, too, that there are two famous examples of October Surprises in recent American history. The first was allegedly carried off by Richard Nixon, who derailed Vietnamese peace talks that he was afraid might help Hubert Humphrey’s campaign. This one actually appears to be true. The second was the supposed handiwork of Ronald Reagan, who supposedly made a deal with the Iranian mullahs to supply them with high tech weaponry if they’d hold onto their hostages until after the election. This one appears to be bogus.

Note, though, that in both cases the surprise came from a challenger, not a sitting president. But hey, there’s a first time for everything!

In any case, feel free to expand on one of mine or make up one of your own for Mark’s contest. The winner gets a book, some Air America trinkets, and a live appearance on Air America to “bask in the gratitude of a skeptical nation.” What more could you want?