October surprise

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(Host) As November approaches, commentator Bill Seamans reflects on the election year phenomenon known as the October surprise.

(Seamans) The campaign countdown and the moment of truth are bearing down on us. Yes, there are just thirteen more days to the presidential election – when we will make our choices and hope for the best. The immediate hope is that we will not get bogged down in a post-election quagmire of election fraud, scandal and legal battles. We don’t want to see the Supreme Court again appoint the president.

Meanwhile, there is another deadline in sight – we have just eleven more days for the October Surprise to show up. This, of course, is a frivolous fringe around a serious election. It was created by the more or less cynical imaginations of conspiracy theorists who are the camp followers of every presidential campaign. Although frivolous, I suggest that their ruminations have provided us with some therapeutic relief from the noise of what many believe is the nastiest presidential campaign ever.

The October Surprise possibility most frequently mentioned these days is that President Bush’s clandestine operatives have captured Osama bin Laden and have him holed up in a comfortable cave in the remote mountains along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. Osama was tracked down, according to this conspiracy scenario, by Task Force 121, a secret unit made up of elite Army Delta force troops, Navy Seals, and CIA paramilitaries. This is the outfit that captured and deloused Saddam Hussein. It is fantasized that they are waiting for the order to bring out Osama as a knockout Bush campaign punch. Even Teresa Heinz Kerry joined in saying she thought that unveiling Osama as an October Surprise was not an improbable Karl Rovian gambit!

The conspiracy theorists say that the Democrats could retaliate with a Battle of the Bulge – that mysterious box shaped bulge that the tv cameras showed under President Bush’s suit coat during one of the debates. Was it or was it not a radio receiver that fed the answers to a hidden Bush earpiece?

According to this conspiracy fantasy the Democrats cracked the coded wave length and will present a bombshell October Surprise transcript of the answers and acting directions transmitted to Bush’s ear. But it’s said that the Kerryites have not decided whether to complain about the radio or about the quality of the prompting fed the President.

The conspiracy gamesters also say that the Democratic Dirty Tricksters are not above spreading the false rumor that President Bush will announce that an intensive search by his people has found misplaced supplies of flu vaccine and that he will offer free flu shots for a quid pro vote.

All this makes me wonder whatever happened to the words “gravitas” and “civility”?

This is Bill Seamans.

Award-winning journalist Bill Seamans is a former correspondent and bureau chief for ABC News in the Middle East. He spoke from our studio in Norwich.

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