October surprises

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(Host) Commentator Bill Seamans looks ahead to the months ahead in the presidential campaign.

(Seamans) As we rumble toward Presidential Election Day conventional wisdomites predict that it will be the most contentious campaign in American political history. Both the Republican and Democratic “dirty tricks” machines are warming up for the battle – and you ain’t seen nothin’ yet!

The masters of campaign strategy save their best ammunition for as close to election day as possible. We call this technique the “October Surprise.” It’s a last-minute bombshell aimed at clinching an election by dumping a sensational surprise on the other guy so late in October that he has no time to reply effectively before the November election. So the big question right now is what devastating secret are the Republican and Democratic tricksters holding back for an “October Surprise.”

Out of the murky depths where the tricksters troll for trash rises what is called the political conspiracy theory. The wildest conspiracy theory gathering strength right now concerns Osama bin Laden. After a long hiatus during which President Bush didn’t even mention Osama, a surprising number of hunting down bin Laden stories has suddenly appeared. This coincidental spate of speculation suddenly coming out of nowhere bears all the signs of deliberate, but deniable, leaks.

The New York Times tells us that President Bush has suddenly ordered the effort to capture Osama dead or alive intensified. The Washington Post in two very long articles told of near misses by a secret CIA hunt for Osama in Afghanistan along the Pakistan border. It involved caves supposedly stocked with enough supplies to secretly hold Osama for up to several months until our Special Forces bring him out. London’s sensationalist Sunday Telegraph claimed that Osama was “boxed in” and being monitored by one of Condi Rice’s satellites.

Then Pentagon and Pakistani officials denied an Iranian state radio report that Osama had been captured “a long time ago” – but American officials (not named as usual) cooled that conspiracy story saying that “rumors of significant progress regarding the hunt for Osama are overstated.” Newsweek also added a report that a supersecret team called Task Force 121 is being thrown into the hunt. Now if Unit 121 is so supersecret, then why the apparent leak?

Despite all the denials, the most fervent conspiracy theorists say that the implication that President Bush wants to bring out Osama as his “October Surprise” cannot be missed – and that’s just the beginning, folks, with about eight more months to go!

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 to us from our studio in Norwich.

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