Friday, October 22, 2010

Obama’s October Surprise?

President Obama and the Democrats are in for a thumping in the forthcoming mid-term elections. The economy is in rough shape and people and furious at Washington’s power grab from health care to finance. So what is Obama to do? The economy is what the economy is–namely, a very rough shape–and Obama can do precious little to change that before the November elections. So if Obama wants to pull off an October Surprise–and limit the damage–it is going to occur in the realm of foreign policy.

He has a couple of options. First, he can hope that a national security crisis erupts that will put him in a positive light as a decisive leader. Second, he can try to manufacture a success or try to force a success before November. Now would certainly be a great time to capture or kill Osama bin Laden. The other option is to quietly push for foreign help by encouraging a country like Iran to feign an interest in real peace. Does this sound too far-fetched or too Machiavellian? If you think so, read about Jimmy Carter’s overtures to the Soviets during the Cold War. He met with the Soviet Ambassador before the 1980 election and the 1984 election and begged for the Soviets to make him look good (1980) and Reagan look bad (1984). He even offered to do the Soviets “favors” in return. The Soviet Ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin wrote all about it in his memoirs, as I did in my book Reagan’s War. For some reason this behavior has never received much information from the mainstream media.

The lesson: watch closely the weeks and days before an important election. And never underestimate the moral capacity of a politician to do anything for votes.

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