Usually around this time in the election cycle, I find myself daydreaming about the inevitability of the upcoming last minute political revelations which can cause a candidate to sink or swim on the turn of a phrase. The term for these drama-fests was originally coined by Gary Sick when discussing an alleged conspiracy among the 1980 Reagan campaign to use George H. W. Bush to stall the Iran Hostages’ release until after the election. Ever since then, the news scandal which erupts in everyone’s face just in time to change the course of elections (so voting machine programmers don’t have to) has been known as the “October Surprise.”
For a good while now, the Repubs have fought some of the dirtiest campaigns this side of gonorrhea. Most every Dem lost election in recent times has had an October Surprise: Dukakis going down over Willie Horton, Gore and the bogus Internet claim, Kerry and the litany of ways he was Swiftboated. Somehow it seemed this go-round however; the GOP was playing the typical Dem role of the hapless losers, making every wrong step possible.
Depending on how far you want to go back there’ve been numerous opportunities to chronicle the buffoonery of the GOP campaign including my favorite: McCain not knowing a Shiite from Shinola back in the spring. Then there’s the way it was revealed that McCain, who once crowed of himself as anti-lobbyist, has now built his campaign staff almost exclusively out of lobbyists and the Neo-Con think tank crowd. That led to the public embarrassment and possible treason when Randy Scheunemann himself, of the Project for the New American Century fame, McCain’s go-to guy on foreign affairs, was revealed to be a paid lobbyist for the former Soviet republic of Georgia (currently of the fabled UniCal Caspian pipeline fame) at the same time McCain starts calling for US intervention in the Georgia/Russia standoff.
And of course there is that figure the Dems are already walloping McCain with daily: his 90% plus voting record of siding with the increasingly unpopular George W Bush through many of Bush’s worst decisions. In a fair election, just being that associated with the Suharto-like Bush would be enough to discredit McCain, if not get him investigated for indictment in his own right, like fellow Arizona GOP member Rick Renzi.
And then, like an over-ripe Christmas plum, the McCain campaign offers up Sarah Palin as a vice presidential choice. If that is the face and the voice of the new Republican Womanhood, no wonder so many male GOP leaders support “Abstinence Only Education.” If the Dems only exploited one scandal a day on this woman they could be discrediting her clear up until Obama’s Inauguration. Suddenly I find myself wondering if the good guys are actually going to win this round and if this year’s inevitable October Surprise isn’t going to come down on the GOP. Maybe after years of effort to stitch all the pieces in place John Conyers Judiciary Committee will actually come out with the goods when Congress resumes and initiate Impeachment Proceedings. And everyday the hearings are on the media could plaster McCain with Bush just like he so richly deserves.
But then I think wait, I’m living in America and that kind of justice is hard to come by. It’s usually bought or sold. Perhaps our October Surprise will be that in light of the successful suppression of free speech and free press activists at this year’s Republican National Convention, the Bush administration in the interest of public safety and public awareness will soon be releasing an amending Bill of Rights. Since so few Americans have expressed concerns over the steady erosion of those rights, Bush & Co. have rationalized that given sufficient personal freedoms and creature comforts we could be persuaded to ignore the loss of our civil rights.
“Here is the summary version of your new Bill of Sale: the right to remain silent.” Anything you say can and will be used against you. Perhaps in staying silent for so long we Americans will find we’ve traded away our ability to speak in exchange for a fuller bowl of porridge and a warmer bathroom.
Either way this is definitely a time to watch for the next shoe to drop. Who will be surprising whom? That depends on who is actually dealing the cards and I think we’re going to find out soon.--mikel weisser writes from the left coast of AZ.