Unless you're a member of the Bush Family or some other well-connected Republican, it's not advised that you try the alibis that cleared Ronald Reagan's campaign in the 1980 October Surprise case. You also would need to make sure that the "investigators" were lame-brained or weak-kneed Democrats.
For instance, if you're suspected of being at the scene of a crime, it probably wouldn't work to use the alibi that someone wrote down your home phone number (supposedly "proving" that you were at home, even if the person didn't actually reach you at home).
The police also aren't likely to be impressed if your nephew recalls that his dead father phoned you on a specific day years earlier (when there are no records of the call and your faithful nephew had earlier offered a completely different alibi and backed away after it was proven to be false).
And definitely don't try this one: Don't tell the police that you have an alibi witness and will give them the name, but only if they agree never to speak with your witness; that they won't be allowed to check out your alibi. That one only works if you're actually a member of the Bush Family.
In the world where most of us live, these "alibis" would not be considered very effective and indeed might make you look guiltier. The investigators also might get offended, thinking that you regard them as very stupid. [For the full details on these alibis, see "The Crazy October Surprise Debunking."]
However, in Official Washington when the political desire is strong to get rid of some messy scandal, alibis of this sort will do just fine, as they did in dispensing with the nasty allegations that Ronald Reagan's campaign sabotaged President Jimmy Carter's efforts to free 52 American hostages in Iran, a failure that paved the way for Reagan's historic landslide in 1980.
When a congressional "investigation" swept those allegations under the rug a dozen years later, pretty much everyone was a winner: the Republicans protected the legacies of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush; the Democrats were spared a fierce battle and got praised for their "bipartisanship"; the news media didn't have to master a complex set of facts; and the voters could go back to sleep.
The only real downside was that American history was miswritten and patterns were set. After all, if a political group becomes confident that it can get away with illegal dirty tricks and other crimes to gain and hold power, it is likely to repeat the process, again and again, knowing that the other actors will play their predictable roles as enablers.
In that sense, the failure of President Lyndon Johnson and his top aides to blow the whistle on Richard Nixon's sabotage of the Vietnam peace talks in 1968 set the stage for the similar operation against President Jimmy Carter in 1980, involving some of the same operatives. Johnson's Defense Secretary Clark Clifford judged that the 1968 story was "so shocking" that its disclosure before the election would not "be good for the country."
The success of the Reagan campaign's 1980 October Surprise gambit undermining Carter on the Iranian hostages without getting caught then opened the door to other clandestine operations, such as the Iran-Contra arms-for-hostage deals, protection of Nicaraguan contra drug traffickers, and secret military aid to Iraq's Saddam Hussein.
The Bush-43 Era
Sliding away from those scandals in the late 1980s and early 1990s with only minimal damage filled the Republicans with even more confidence as they set about to steal the presidential election in 2000. As George W. Bush elbowed his way to the White House despite Al Gore getting more votes both nationally and in the key state of Florida, the Democrats (and the U.S. news media) again stepped aside.
I learned just recently that a top editor at one major U.S. newspaper opposed the idea of having an independent media examination of the Florida ballots because the discovery of a rightful Gore victory would have undercut Bush's "legitimacy" and, thus, would not have been "good for the country." In other words, this editor favored blissful ignorance over troubling reality.
That see-no-Bush-evil sentiment among news executives intensified after the 9/11 attacks, when the media "recount" actually did determine that if all ballots (considered legal under Florida law) had been counted Gore would have prevailed regardless of the standard used for the so-called "chads."
Faced with that startling result the wrong man was in the Oval Office major U.S. news organizations (including the New York Times, the Washington Post and CNN) focused their stories on various hypothetical partial recounts that would have still left Bush slightly ahead. Supposedly for the "good of the country," these major news outlets buried their own lede.
So, the reason that I have returned from time to time to excavate some of this political history is that I believe that recognizing the hard truth about how Republicans have gained power and how the Democrats and the major news media have enabled this process is a necessary first step toward correcting these political distortions and making democracy meaningful again.
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