Opinion: The 2012 October Surprise

Monday, October 29, 2012 - 03:22 PM

I have written about the “October Surprise” here before. That’s the unexpected event that happens just before the November election and shifts the entire campaign and the final outcome.

The movie “Wag the Dog,” which I watched again on my iPad as I was flying back to Iowa from New Hampshire, is the classic. In it, a spin-doctor (Robert de Niro) and a Hollywood producer (Dustin Hoffman) fabricate a war in order to cover-up a presidential sex scandal that threatens the re-election chances of the incumbent. The fake war, made up brutality against a young Albanian girl and her kitten, and the death of a brave U.S. soldier (Woody Harrelson) rally the country around the beleaguered executive-in-chief.

The expression “Wag the Dog” is when something of lesser importance takes on the role of something of greater importance.

The October surprise is now hitting the East Coast of the United States!

Hurricane Sandy changes EVERYTHING about the 2012 presidential race.

First, it will derail all of the well-laid plans for the final nine days of campaigning. Many of the crucial states such as Virginia and New Hampshire will be isolated just as the final stretch begins.

Second, disadvantage Obama. The president is “grounded” because he cannot leave the White House emergency command center from which he must coordinate disaster response. That cuts into the last hard push to get voters excited and to the polling places.

Third, advantage Obama. This gives the president a chance to, well, be the president! You don’t change horses in the middle of the stream, in the middle of a war, and perhaps also not in the middle of the disaster caused by the largest storm EVER recorded in the history of the United States.

Fourth, I watched the hype misters at Fox trying to push the Benghazi, Libya “scandal” being whipped out by Congressman Issa and other Republicans as they hold hearings into the supposed failures of the Obama administration in providing security to the U.S. consulate. They looked uncomfortable trying to pump up the blood pressure on this incident at a time when “stormaggedon” was raging on all the other cable channels! I think Benghazi is history as a political issue and that is very good for the Obama team.

Fifth, IF things go terribly wrong during and after the storm — in other words if it’s Katrina II, and FEMA screws up again, Obama is toast. It will all be blamed on the incompetence of the president.

Sixth, Sandy has injected an atmosphere of total uncertainty into the 2012 contests, including the polling. Polls require a steady state and their accuracy could be devastated in this moment of panic, fear and confusion.

Seventh, there is great alarm about voter turnout. Infrastructure, public transportation, millions of people evacuated and perhaps not even physically near their polling places could totally shake up the turnout environment.

Eighth, gas and heating oil prices will spike because there will be a complete supply chain disruption. There are refineries in New Jersey that are crucial.

Ninth, the New York Stock Market will close completely for two days with no trading by Wall Street. What will that do to stock numbers? Will the markets go up or down when Wall Street resumes business? How will that play politically?

Tenth, massive power outages could very well disrupt the voting machines which need electricity to use and to transmit results to central compiling equipment. That would be devastating because we have NO provisions for other forms of voting such as pencil or pen marked paper ballots.

What will happen to the results of the 2012 election if huge numbers of voters are not able to vote or the votes cannot be compiled?

Will there be prolonged recounting or an effort to extend voting past November 6?

Could we face a 2000 election scenario (Remember Bush vs. Gore?) in which we won’t know the results for weeks or months?

Have I made my case that we finally know the 2012 October Surprise? It’s called  Sandy.


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Comments [8]

RUCB_Alum from Central New Jersey

@listener -

You are again showing signs of FoxNews Syndrome - presenting half-truths and partial truths to support a conclusion that you have already made. Most folks go from facts to conclusion, wingers go from conclusion to facts.

Wasting FIVE trillion? Increased government spending during recession is standard policy. Do you think McCain, if he had won, would have done any differently?
Why can't the GOP take some responsibility for cutting the State Dept's security budget by $450M?
Our action in Libya was NOT extra-Constitutional but pursued under our treaty with NATO. I can agree that Congressional buy-in would have been preferable but who can say what the Party of 'No' would have done with this? The President had the authority to act on this one with our without Congressional approval.

Nov. 03 2012 01:41 PM


After wasting over FIVE trillion in less than four years why exactly cannot Obama protect a consulate on 9/11 in a city that Obama launched an unconstitutional war over that the US Congress had no say about?!?

Oct. 31 2012 11:30 PM
RUCB_Alum from Central New Jersey

@Steffen -
Please don't forget that the original charges of 'wag the dog' came against Clinton during the Lewinsky scandal when he was supposed to be concentrating on bin Laden. If the GOP private parts police had let the man do his job -- rather than having to calculate the backlash from doing so -- the Towers might still be standing and 3,000+ people might be alive. Yes, I know it's a stretch but bin Laden dead in '98 saves the country from A LOT of events.

@listener -

How preposterous! The GOP House cut over $450M from the State Dept. security budget over the last two fiscal years giving rise to the NEED to prioritize what and how much to cover. Rep. Issa needs to investigate himself.

Oh yeah...and Mitt is on record saying that FEMA functions should return to the states or possibly even be privatized. Right. That ought to work real well.

Your party and its policies are garbage. I would LOVE to see you begin acting like real patriots and stop burning up our chances to get a REAL recovery begun. There's no gain in your party for healing the country so it's clear to me you won't even try.

Oct. 31 2012 09:17 PM

"This gives the president a chance to, well, be the president! "

Maybe Governors Cuomo and Christie were in their command centers in Albany and Trenton looking Gubernatorial weeks ago while the US consulate was being attacked in Libya.....but so what. That's not their job.
Directing an overseas military response in Libya is about as much a Governor's job as it is the President's job directing utility crews or police in Hoboken or Nassau County.

Why couldn't Obama "well, be the president!" when diplomats and Navy SEALs are under attack instead of fund raising in Las Vegas...or is that his job as he sees it?

Could it be acting Presidential during a hurricane suits his campaign more than being Presidential when US territory comes under terrorist attack?

Oct. 31 2012 09:49 AM
Hugh Appet

Was there actually an opinion expressed above? What has "Wag The Dog" to do with any of this? This is a real event. The writer mentioned Rush Limbaugh and Fox news. Limbaugh has said he thinks the Nat'l Weather Service acts politically and falsely hypes hurricanes to suit the White House. He also said before it hit that Obama was hoping Sandy would be an enormous disaster so he can look good. It says something bad about this country that someone so obviously deranged can claim to be the most popular talk radio host in the country.

I just saw Mayor Bloomberg's news conference. What is it with him and being testy? He does not inspire confidence by that while even those of us who were spared major consequences of the storm are wondering even when we can go back to work. He needs to understand the difference between being an official and a ruler.

I was also disconcerted by Gov Christy saying he is not concerned with whether people will be able to vote in the election. I do believe that should be a major concern of any governor, making sure that citizens can vote in a national election.

Finally, will we ever be spared the second by second, breathless and endless coverage by local news of events like this. I also witnessed a reporter in the field confronted by a woman who told a story of desperation and wondering who would help. Not surprisingly, this reporter had no idea if there was Red Cross neaby, or what local authorities she could contact or what. Just five us the information and spare us the over manicured, coiffed and phony sentimentality of the anchors and the almost weasel like quality of ferreting out the worst scene they can put on camera.

Oct. 30 2012 11:42 AM

Eleventh - Give us a break.
The President "must coordinate disaster response" not by directing utility crews in New Jersey but by releasing money which we all know he has a particular talent for doing.

The President's job is to coordinate a military response when US Embassies are under attack or is it that just for "hype misters" to dwell on?

Physician heal thy self.

Oct. 29 2012 11:51 PM

First, the Republicans will say that Obama failed at this regardless of how it is handled. If it takes 4 days to restore power, it should have taken 2, if 1000 people are homeless, it should have been 500 or none. The Republicans/Fox News/Rush Limbaugh will hammer the president with this. I hope he makes it very clear what has been done and how FEMA has been effectively mobilized.

Oct. 29 2012 07:37 PM

"the supposed failures of the Obama administration in providing security to the U.S. consulate"

What a vile, shameful manner in which to characterize what was CLEARLY a massive failure of security protocols both before, during, and after this disaster.

The four people who died- at least two of them fighting an Alamo-style battle against overwhelming odds as requested help was denied repeatedly- are undoubtedly and forever DEAD.

yet this GHOUL Steffan Schmidt characterizes their deaths as the result of "supposed failures"...what a vile excuse for a human being.

Shame on him and shame on the management of WNYC for allowing this apologist for TREASON to use the power of the press in the service of evil.

Oct. 29 2012 04:26 PM

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