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It has often been pointed out that I might enjoy wider circulation as a writer if I didn’t use rude words in my pieces, nor would it hurt if I stuck to the 800 word limit like normal columnists (Ann Coulter). Some readers have suggested a 50 word limit, or maybe I could just write photo captions. I have poo-pooed this advice in the past (poo-poo is not the exact word I used) but I know my readers are very sensitive. Some are so sensitive they could find work detecting W± bosons at the CERN laboratory in Geneva. Suffice it to say their piteous entreaties have pierced my ventricle. Henceforward I will stick to 800 words, none of them naughty words of the type frowned upon by school librarians, William Bennett, or certain parties at the Vatican (you know who you are). There goes my column about Donald Rumsfeld, Belching Rectum Beast of Arabia. Let us instead turn to an issue both wholesome and entertaining for the whole family: the absolute certainty of an October Surprise.
What is an October Surprise? I’m glad I asked. The expression ‘October Surprise’ was coined (in a twist of fate so ironic that it would suffocate a bison in the prime of its youth) by then-Vice Presidential candidate George H.W. Bush, Sr., referring to the possibility that President Jimmy Carter would manipulate an ongoing hostage situation in Iran in order to clinch his re-election. The American national election occurs on November 2nd (November 4th for Republicans — don’t forget to vote!) Consequently, any skullduggery, shenanigans, or monkey business intended to skew the outcome of a national election ought to occur in October, so that even very slow people would have a chance to absorb the effect before voting day. An October Surprise is dirty pool. It’s like slipping a live macaque down the back of your opponent’s shorts during the Olympic pole-vaulting competition. It’s also exactly the kind of boost George W. Bush, Jr. is going to need if he wants to win his first presidential election.
Here’s the scary part: Junior is not the only one who thinks an October Surprise might liven things up this November. Osama bin Laden has something other than Halloween on his mind (he’s going as Andy Gibb this year, by the way the whole outfit with the white sparkly jumpsuit and everything, according to the West Asian Poppy Grower’s Almanac). Just about anybody with a money belt full of C4 and thumbtacks is thinking the same thing. If Spain is any example, one well-aimed petard on October 30 and the USA will vote for Fidel Castro come November 2nd (or 4th, for you Republicans. Don’t forget!) So an October Surprise could come from a variety of highly motivated persons with nothing to lose, consequence-wise. Who will win this egg-and-spoon race from Megiddo to Armageddon? Certainly not the American public.
There are several October Surprise scenarios being bruited about, many of them crackpot in nature, viz. huge numbers of poorly tuned banjoleles will rain down from the heavens on October 27th, causing the man in Bill Clinton’s old office to declare a state of national emergency and postpone or cancel the election. There are, however, more plausible suggestions ahoof. The three most popular go as follows: First, the capture or death of Osama bin Laden is announced, the War on Terror is declared won, and a triumphant Bush rides the wave of popular approval to his first elected term. Second, a catastrophic terrorist attack within the United States (or Guam), engineered by actual terrorists or by operatives within the US government, unifies a terrified electorate behind Bush because he’s a homicidal maniac and that’s what you need in these situations. The third scenario, based on news reports that long-range missile parts of the appropriate vintage are even now being salted around the Iraq desert by US operatives, states that WMD (Weapons of Melvin Destruction) will be ‘discovered’ in Iraq. A thoroughly vindicated Bush rides wave of popular etc. There are myriad variations, but the underlying themes remain constant: either things go improbably right, or things go improbably wrong.
In either case Bush wins and off to Tartarus we go. There is nigh-universal agreement that something will happen Octoberish; the bad news is the above scenarios are optimistic. The worst-case scenario (there are 24 worst in a case of scenario, each 425 ml.) is also the most likely: Bush and his rollicking band of booty bandits (booty in the sense of treasure) will attempt to mount their own October Surprise (cache of Iraqi WMD found in Osama bin Laden’s beard), leaving the remaining thousands of terrorists free to stage an early Guy Fawkes day celebration at the poorly secured domestic nuclear facility of their choice. Trick or Treat, kiddies.
BEN TRIPP is a screenwriter and cartoonist. Ben also has a lot of outrageously priced crap for sale here. If his writing starts to grate on your nerves, buy some and maybe he’ll flee to Mexico. If all else fails, he can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org