October surprise

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(HOST) As the political juggernaut picks up steam during the final weeks of this campaign season, commentator Bill Seamans is wondering what political revelations are yet to come.

(SEAMANS) We again have reached another October before a critical election. And political junkies and pundits again are asking whether one of the parties will spring an “October Surprise” that could torpedo the opposition’s campaign.

From all the early October journalistic and political opinion I’ve seen, we can expect probably the most negative campaign in recent memory. The word negative in this context is the more comfortable expression for dirty and/or sleazy politics.

The Washington Post is among the first off the mark with a report that the Republicans have sent a half-dozen operatives to comb through the personal lives of Democratic candidates looking for damaging information. It’s said the Republicans plan to spend more than ninety percent of their fifty-million-dollar advertising budget on what officials described as negative ads. The objective of a GOP TV blitz, it’s said, will be to shift the debate away from the Iraq war.

The Democrats, on the other hand, appear not as well financed and less organized. They are expected to try to turn the election into a referendum on the Iraq war disaster and what they call the very poor performance of President Bush and the Republican Congress. They are getting early October support as more retired generals speak out against Defense Secretary Rumsfeld and from a barrage of critical books such as “Denial” by Bob Woodward, “Fiasco” by Tom Ricks and “Cobra II” by Michael Gordon and Gen. Bernard Trainor. Also, the Republicans’ Mark Foley Congressional page sex scandal appears to have accidentally helped the Democrats by giving them an early and free October Surprise.

However, as we look for another October Surprise we cannot help but focus on Karl Rove who has become the icon of political spin and negative campaigning – and, love him or hate him, he is without doubt a political strategy genius. Republicans admit that they are facing a tough battle to keep control of Congress. It would follow, then, that Karl Rove faces perhaps his biggest test as the Republican Machiavelli and that he has the motivation to come up with an extreme October Surprise.

What deeply concerns this observer is the national scene of political disunity and turmoil that our troops fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan will see. Their morale is being sorely tested as the insurgency worsens and their service terms are being lengthened – a dirty campaign by either side smearing their potential political leaders back home will not help our servicepersons facing the worst in harms way.

Bill Seamans is a former correspondent and bureau chief for ABC News in the Middle East.

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