It’s October 1st. Are you surprised?

What do these events have in common:

– President Johnson ceased bombing runs into North Vietnam


– Henry Kissenger declared “Peace is at hand” in Vietnam.  (And he’s STILL in the news!)


– Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger was implicated by Special Counsel Lawrence Walsh in the Iran-Contra scandal

Oliver North - Iran-Contra - mug shot

Oliver North - Iran-Contra - mug shot

– A news station in Maine revealed George W. Bush had been arrested for drunk driving in 1976

-Al Jazeera released a tape of Osama Bin Laden declaring “Your security is in your own hands.”

Answer:  They all happened in October, in 1968, 1972, 1992, 2000 and 2004.  What do those years have in common?  They’re all presidential election years.



The conspiracy theory is that in October of US presidential election years, the political party in power in the US manipulates a major event to bolster its favored candidate.  Many believe:

– President Johnson halted bombing of North Vietnam to help Humphrey against Nixon in 1968 (unsuccessfully);

– Kissenger’s announcement increased Nixon’s 1972 landslide against McGovern (successful);

 – Walsh contributed to George H. W.’s defeat in 1992;

– News of George W. Bush’s arrest cost him 4,000,000 evangelical votes in 2000, and;

– Osama Bin Laden damaged John Kerry’s chances in the 2004 election.


The OCTOBER SURPRISE theory feeds our fear that those who are in power lust to remain in power.  But it doesn’t hold up under scrutiny.  True, Johnson and Nixon probably did attempt an October surprise, but in Johnson’s / Humphrey’s case the news was unsuccessful and Nixon was going to cream McGovern anyway.  The 1992 event went against George H.W. Bush and in 2000 Clinton / Gore [probably] had nothing to do with the release of George W. Bush’s drunk driving arrest record.  It’s also doubtful that Osama Bin Laden did George W. Bush’s bidding in 2004, especially given Bush’s notorious comments about the irrelevance of Bin Laden.

Ironically the most famous “October Surprise” event occurred in 1980.  I turned 13 in Septmber and recall the events that year – the ongoing Iranian hostage crisis and the election of Ronald Reagan – as two of the four most transformative political events of my life.  The other two were Watergate / resignation of Nixon and the fall of Saigan / aftermath of our defeat in Vietnam.  I also remember my dad bitterly complaining when gas reached 63 cents per gallon so I suppose the gas lines would be fifth on the list.  In the case of the hostages, the entire country rallied to the cause, tying yellow ribbons around trees everywhere showing support for their families and demanding their release.  Only the Gulf War and 9/11 would unite the country the same way. 

The story goes that the Reagan campaign feared that President Jimmy Carter was waiting until October to release the American hostages who had been in captivity in Iran for almost a year.   The hostage’s release would almost certainly ensure Carter’s reelection in November. 

But the hostages weren’t released in October and in a bitter slap at President Carter, Iran waited until the minute Reagan was sworn in as President to free the 52 Americans.  The timing of the release fed Democrats’ suspicions that the Reagan campaign had secretly negotiated with the Iranian regime to delay the release until after the election.  Twelve years later a Senate subcommitte found that a conspiracy of this sort was not likely.    Columbia Professor Gary Sick details this theory in his book, October Surprise.

Which brings us to 2008.  No one would put anything past the Bush administration.  They’ve proven themselves unscupulous enough to stoop to any level to further their agenda, although I’m no longer certain what their agenda might be.   Actually, the Bush administration’s agenda at this point could only be to protect their asses which means a McCain administration.  They need their people to cling to power to stymie any inevstigation into their many crimes.  So… to help bring McCain into power, what could they possibly do? 

What if they’ve already captured Bin Laden and they’re just waiting until the opportune moment to disclose this information.  Perhaps a successful bailout?  Probably wouldn’t work.  Obviously the best event for McCain would be another terrorist attack in the next five weeks, something unthinkable.  Do you think they’re capable of this?

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