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September 24, 2006
The October Surprise Meme Arises Again

At one time, paranoid conspiracists comprised only the lunatic fringe of American politics. Yesterday, former Senator Gary Hart reminded us of why Democrats have managed to lose three straight elections that they should have won by announcing that the Bush administration would attack Iran in order to win the midterm elections:

It should come as no surprise if the Bush Administration undertakes a preemptive war against Iran sometime before the November election.

Were these more normal times, this would be a stunning possibility, quickly dismissed by thoughtful people as dangerous, unprovoked, and out of keeping with our national character. But we do not live in normal times.

And we do not have a government much concerned with our national character. If anything, our current Administration is out to remake our national character into something it has never been.

Hart has it exactly backwards: we have an opposition party that has transformed itself into something completely outside the national character -- which is why voters haven't trusted them with power since 2000. This is nothing new. Recall 2004, when Madeline Albright and Teresa Kerry told people that the Bush administration had already captured Osama bin Laden and would announce it right before the presidential elections. Recall also that John Kerry told people that George Bush was secretly planning to reinstate the draft after the presidential election, which would have been more of a November surprise, even though the only people proposing it were Democrats Charles Rangel and Fritz Hollings. (In fact, Democrats insisted on considering a draft in 2005.)

Alos, let's not forget the Howard Dean theory on 9/11 -- that the Bush administration had advance knowledge of it but allowed it to happen in order to gain politically from the war, saying it was an "interesting theory" during his presidential run in 2003-4. The Democrats responded to this conspiracy-mongering by putting Dean in charge of their party.

Now we have yet another mainstream Democratic figure pushing through another October Surprise theory, and it's even more ridiculous than the Osama rumor. For one thing, it ignores military logistics completely, a pretty embarrassing exposure of Democratic fecklessness on defense. Since we are about six weeks ahead of the midterms, the US would have to have already started mobilizing for the war; in fact, they would have had to do so weeks ago. Hart blithely notes that bombers and missile ships would have to be repositioned, but gives no context of the logistical efforts necessary to make that happen.

The paranoid fantasy also hinges on the notion that the Bush administration wants to go to war with Iran, when nothing the administration has done even hints at it. If anything, Democrats such as Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden have sounded much more hysterical alarms at the risk posed by Iran, accusing the Bush administration of "outsourcing" the efforts to contain the nuclear threat by working with the EU-3. Bush has tried patiently to work through the UN Security Council and the Europeans to get Iran back into compliance with the Non-Proliferation Treaty. He even approved the offer of a wide-ranging package of incentives that would supply Iran with nuclear power, and he and Condoleezza Rice have allowed Iran to shrug off at least two deadlines for responses to the package with no consequences whatsoever.

There is also the problem of declaring war without going to Congress. Hart's explanation of how Bush will unilaterally decide to attack Iran sounds much like the kind of announcements we heard from Bill Clinton when he launched missiles at Iraq at two points in his presidency. However, the situation is much different than with Iraq. Clinton had authorization to enforce the terms of the 1991 cease-fire, and in the case of the first strike, responded to an attempt by the Iraqis to assassinate George H. W. Bush. The White House has no authorization to attack Iran nor any cease-fire to enforce. Bush would have to get Congress to authorize a strike on Iran, unless Iran launched an attack on the US. With the nutcases in Congress already spewing rhetoric about impeachment, Bush will not be inclined to hand them a case for it just before the midterms.

The entire notion of an October Surprise has gripped the Democrats ever since Jimmy Carter got the boot in 1980. Every election, they claim the Republicans have a nasty trick about to drop on the electorate -- and every time they wind up with egg on their face. Perhaps the eeeeeevil mastermind Karl Rove has launched the same October Surprise each time: the collapse and exposure of their paranoid fantasies, showing that they have no business leading this nation. (via The Moderate Voice)

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at September 24, 2006 10:48 AM

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