Step Right Up, Ladies and Gentlemen! It's the October Surprise!
I had a wild fantasy yesterday - so intriguing that for about an hour I actually believed I was onto something. It would be a brilliant move as far as the current administration is concerned - an administration that is rightfully worried about its past war crimes should Congress go to the Democrats. This fantasy would be a Karl Rove masterstroke in some ways, and take the biggest issue of the elections - Iraq - off the table. You'd have President Bush appear on television in a Jimmy Swaggert moment and say Iraq was a bad mistake, and please forgive him: "We're pulling out and with the help of Congress, we can achieve this rapidly." Iraq is neutralized as an issue, and Congress stays Republican. Once more Karl Rove makes a brilliant move that really does surprise everyone.
See, one thing I got from reading excerpts of Bob Woodward's fawning books on the President, is that this whole resolve thing is the simple result of a marketing decision. Rove knew that being decisive sells better than flip-flopping. Ask John Kerry about that. And don't try to say Kerry didn't flip-flop. I have personal experience with that campaign and they couldn't decide on making a decision without deciding not to at the same time.
The Bush administration committed to being decisive because it plays better. To understand this group, you have to work backwards from the desired effect. They only arrive at a policy as an afterthought to how it will spin. President Bush doesn't really care about spreading democracy in the world. He has dealt a potentially fatal blow to the election process right here in America. Democracy? President Bush would prefer that this was a dictatorship. In fact, in his mind, it is.
So what's changed? Time is running out. That's part of the Constitution that I don't believe even President Bush will ignore. He might, but I'm counting on him being out of power in January, 2009. So this November is his last meaningful election. That means the resolve thing isn't as important as it used to be. The Bush administration just wants to hold Congress. That's the endgame right now. Sure, they might try to clear up some of their messes before leaving to help the presidency stay Republican - after all President Bush might need a pardon down the road. But it's all about holding Congress, and that means eliminating their biggest problem issue: Iraq.
Of course, my hour of hopeful fantasy came and went and I returned to darker visions of what awaits us next month. Wishful thinking is a poor choice when everything that's happened with President Bush has been worse than anticipated. I thought he would merely be the worst President in American History, but it turns out I was just being optimistic. My analysis assumed that the United States would go on basically the same as before. I now see President Bush as a person well on the way to ending America - at least the America of my youth.
So why should this ruthless torturer change his ways now? The October Surprise will probably be something hideous with lots of people dying. The odds are that these people will be in Iran. It will be another preemptive strike by a man who believes he rules the world. I hope I am wrong. I hope my whimsical dream from yesterday is correct. Maybe they'll get right up to the edge of deciding on attacking Iran and realize that it would do more harm than good. What am I saying? If the bounce from another war gets the public frightened enough to vote Republican, than that will be good enough for Rove and company. None of the consequences matter, remember? It's all about how it will spin.
Sure, they'll have a bulletproof rationale worked up - they already do. They won't need a focus group to figure this out. Karl Rove is his own focus group. So get ready. Rove has been telling Republican leaders that there will be an October Surprise. It's historic really. This could be the last big disaster of the Bush Years. From now on we'll just be dealing with the disastrous repercussions. The key problem with my wild fantasy of yesterday, is that I thought it would be a brilliant move. This administration doesn't deal in brilliant moves.