Back in 2008 a volunteer for the John McCain campaign named Ashley Todd attempted to engineer an October Surprise by staging a violent assault by an African-American Obama supporter. She claimed to police that this man violently mugged her, and then after discovering she was a McCain proceeded to carve the letter “B” into her face. The most obvious clue that this was a hoax was the fact that the letter “B” was backwards…as if it had been created using a mirror. Unfortunately for the McCain campaign they chose to broadcast this event loudly before realizing it was a hoax.
So far this year the attempts at an October Surprise have not been nearly as sensational. As radaronline.com details, Gloria Allred attempted to smear Mitt Romney by connecting him to the child custody hearings of former Staples CEO Tom Stemberg. While not exactly an October Surprise, Ginger White attempted to gain media attention by continuing her affair allegations against Herman Cain, who continues various efforts to support the Republican Party and his tax ideas.
Donald Trump failed to elicit anything but a collective yawn with his attempt at garnering media attention. Trump publicly offered $5 million for Obama’s college records. The reason Trump did this is because Obama critics believe that these sealed college records would prove that Obama had given up his US citizenship when living overseas and had come to college as a foreign exchange student. As detailed by TheBlaze.com this would mean that Obama either/or lied on his college applications or falsely benefited from federal monies to attend college. Despite the potential seriousness of the issue, the way Trump went about it came off as laughable. Even my wife, who never follows politics and doesn’t care, exclaimed, “Is he trying to bribe the President?”, when she overheard me listening to the Trump video announcement.
This election still seems to have been presented by the Letter B, with Birthers, Big Bird, Binders, or Bayonets coming as amusing asides. “Romnesia” is another new term entered into our dictionaries. Not exactly October Surprise worthy, but they do distract from the real issues. Unfortunately, this makes the entire political process seem foolish. John Cook of Gawker.com explains how this childish behavior has diminished the Presidential Office:
Obama has taken to using “Romnesia” to describe Romney’s inability or unwillingness to hew to a policy position for more than two weeks. “He’s forgetting what his own positions are, and he’s betting that you will, too,” Obama said at a rally in Virginia last week. “We’ve got to name this condition that he’s going through. I think it’s called ‘Romnesia.'” Today, summing up the debate, Obama called Romney’s performance “at least Stage 3 Romnesia.”
This is very, very dumb. Maybe “Romnesia” is a funny, handy term that usefully carries an important anti-Romney message. But even if it is, it is just too juvenile and jokey to be coming from the president. He shouldn’t be making jokes based on his opponent’s name. That’s what vice presidents are for. Put it in John Kerry’s mouth. He’ll say anything.
But when Obama says it, it comes off as unserious and jocular. It’s the kind of joke that, had a speechwriter proposed it four years ago, 2008 Obama would have smirked and said, “OK guys, let’s get down to work.” The term, it bears noting, was apparently coined on Twitter by a guy going by the name of @breakingnuts. This is not how you put away childish things.
So far the only October Surprise that has stuck in the minds of the public is the mishandling of the Benghazi, Libya incident. But Obama’s opponents did not have to say anything…they just let Obama create the controversy by ignoring warnings by those on-site, reducing security before the attack, first blaming the attack on a YouTube, declare the event as “not optimal“, and attempt a retraction where they claimed it was a terrorist attack from the beginning because the words “act of terror” were used in general during an Obama speech. Sara Palin attempted to chime in on this controversy, which allowed Obama supporters to divert attention by focusing on Palin’s usage of the “shuck and jive” term. Similarly, Ann Coulter was attacked because she used the word “retard” to describe the actions of the Obama Administration.
We still have a week and a half for another attempt at an October Surprise. Here is hoping this potential October Surprise is real relevant news and not another publicity stunt.