October Surprise!

SN&R readers suggest scenarios for a late-election bombshell

Mission accomplice: Move over, <i>Team America</i>, the conspiracy of the willing is back in action!

Mission accomplice: Move over, Team America, the conspiracy of the willing is back in action!

Photo Illustration by David Jayne

Is it pragmatism or cynicism that makes many of us expect an “October Surprise”—a last-minute political revelation or dramatic policy shift designed to influence the November 2 presidential election between President George W. Bush and Senator John Kerry?

Probably a little bit of both.

We first heard the term October Surprise after Ronald Reagan thumped Jimmy Carter in the 1980 presidential race. Afterwards, Democrats charged that Reagan (and his new Vice President George H. W. Bush, former director of the CIA) secretly arranged to delay the release of 52 American hostages being held in Iran. Indeed, that country let the captives free five minutes after Reagan took the oath of office. Suspicions grew when it later was learned that a secret supply of arms began to flow to Iran through Israel a few days after the inauguration.

So, it’s not just the paranoid who predict a “surprise.”

Of course, the Internet has gotten into the act with www.octobersurprise.net, featuring a blog site full of scenarios; and www.osamabinlotto.org, allowing readers to compete (three dollars a guess) by picking among five popular October Surprise developments. The options are: 1) Osama Bin Laden is captured; 2) America attacks Iran; 3) America attacks North Korea; 4) Bush postpones the election; 5) Vice President Dick Cheney drops from the GOP ticket.

Another last minute scenario (November Surprise?) anticipates Election Day trouble at the ballot box. Indeed, Sen. Kerry seems to be taking into consideration the possibility of a disenfranchised voters “surprise.” His campaign already has hired a team of legal brains ready to duke it out in battleground states if voting irregularities occur.

Ultimately, the goal is to anticipate something unexpected happening between now and the election, realizing that anything could turn out to be a political ploy.

With this in mind, we asked SN&R readers to suggest possible scenarios. Here are some of the entries in our October Surprise contest.

News flash: October 25. Location: flight deck of an aircraft carrier off the coast of Kuwait. President Bush arrived this morning to display the body of a very tall Arab, reportedly “killed in action in Afghanistan.” A group of reporters were cautioned not to make a big deal out of the pervasive smell of embalming fluids and the ship’s head chef was overheard remarking that “the damn thing has been stinking up my meat locker for months.”

—Jack Edwards

Tom Ridge announces new intelligence that reveals a 90-percent likelihood of a terrorist attack on Election Day. For the “safety of the American people,” Bush declares martial law and postpones the election indefinitely. Ironically, all who oppose this are called “un-American” and “unpatriotic” by Bush supporters.

—Jeff Oakes

After beating the Oakland Athletics in the division series, the Boston Red Sox mow down the New York Yankees in grand fashion and win the American League pennant at Yankee Stadium. Democratic Presidential hopeful John Kerry participates in the celebration after the victory, shaking hands and hugging the players on the field—an action marks a shift of momentum in the presidential race. America begins to rally around the senator and the Red Sox, who haven’t won a World Series in over eight decades. One week before the election, America begins to see the senator as a comeback kid. As the World Series begins at Dodger Stadium, John Kerry is right there in the stands night after night, cheering on the Red Sox. The series is a classic as the underdog Red Sox push the Dodgers to game seven. Now, it’s Halloween night and the entire world is watching: kids stay home from trick-or-treating, families gather around their televisions, sports bars are packed to see if the Red Sox can “reverse the curse,” on such a hallowed evening. Only baseball is on the minds of Americans. Throughout the game, the cameras repeatedly capture a smiling John Kerry. With Curt Schilling on the mound, the Red Sox take a 4-2 lead into the ninth—then the unthinkable happens. Fox News interrupts the game for a special report: Osama bin Laden has been captured. There is neither video of the capture nor shots of the notorious terrorist being administered a physical examination; just a report. A special announcement is made to the packed crowd at Dodger Stadium and a ten-minute roar ensues. By the time Fox News returns to the game in progress, Adrian Beltre has belted a homer off reliever Keith Foulke and the Dodgers win the World Series. Two days later George W. Bush wins the election, in a landslide.

—Brian Kent

The October Surprise will be the “sudden” capture of Osama bin Laden. I am not sure when, where or how; but it will be even more dramatic than the “capture” of Saddam Hussein.

—Janice Speth

An operative discovers a cryptic Al Qaeda playbook, thus giving the United States the upper hand in the war on terror. Following rigorous analysis, translation and decoding, the master file appears to be the key to apprehending Osama bin Laden and stopping terror plots—including several meant to disrupt the upcoming presidential election. The playbook dates back at least twelve years and clearly details how past attacks were planned and carried out, including Oklahoma City and the first World Trade Center attack. Records provide evidence that operatives wanted to ensure that the United States would not retaliate, and specify plans for supporting leaders who were considered “weak” on offense. Records show evidence of a miscellaneous contribution to candidate Gore in 2000 and, most recently, to the Kerry 2004 campaign. The playbook also details secret meetings with the top level of the Clinton administration; names are being withheld pending further investigation. The discovery will impact the upcoming presidential election and give credibility to George W. Bush.

—Anie Wilson

It’s going to be a reverse October Surprise this time: Bush will be caught on tape referring to Colin Powell using the ‘n’ word. Ironically, this will save the world through W’s removal and eventual criminal prosecution.

—Joel Ainger

On Wednesday, October 13, Tom Ridge will warn the nation that we are in “code red,” and that a strike on the homeland is imminent. Sales of plastic wrap (a petroleum-based product) and duct tape (which Republicans invested heavily in after Ridge encouraged everyone to tape their windows shut last time) skyrocket. Meanwhile, the Pentagon puts both Saddam (who escaped) and Osama (who was captured) on a jet, piloted by remote control, and flies them over the Atlantic. On Friday, October 15, as the plane approaches New York, the press is notified and Fox goes live to the White House. Bush pulls out his old National Guard flight suit—which is barely used and looks brand new. He suits up, takes flight and blasts the evildoers into oblivion with one sure-aimed shot. Good thing he used a pre-programmed “smart” bomb. Bush circles around and lands safely at John F. Kennedy International Airport, where Karl Rove waits with a camera crew and another “mission accomplished” sign. This footage, along with the evildoers going down in a blaze of fire, is repeated every 30 minutes on network and cable news channels up until the election. Bush wins on November 2.

—Christina Rose

(Disclosure: Christina Rose is retail sales manager of SN&R.)

A fifth hurricane will strike the poor and ravaged retirees and denizens of Florida in late October. Hurricane Kay not only will devastate more homes, but it also will destroy all polling places. With little time to recuperate and relocate, the state once again is rendered impotent during a presidential election.

—Pamela Chao

The real “October Surprise” is that in 2004, there will be no “October Surprise”—it’s no longer needed. As a result of the Help America Vote Act of 2002, at least 30 percent of votes cast on November 2 will be via touch-screen computer voting machines. The major manufacturers of these machines—such as Diebold—have ties to the Republican party. Public examination of voting machine software has not been allowed; courts have called the software the “proprietary interests” of the manufacturers. The public’s legal challenges to this “privatization of the vote” so far have not been able to guarantee fair elections. With software inspection prohibited by the courts, there is no way to tell whether or not the machines will change votes. It now appears likely that the vote itself has been stolen by Republicans. The 2004 election will be decided by totals emitted from the secret software inside the touch screen machines; absence of paper ballots will make recounts impossible. Republicans will retain their hold on power.

—David Kimball