How should Kerry react to the October Surprise

Let’s assume just for argument’s sake that the conspiracy theorists are correct and that the US has captured Usama bin Laden and keeps this matter under wraps until mid-October and then makes the announcement of the good news. You are John Kerry and his advisors. As far as election strategies go it has to be scenario that Kerry has game-planned for, wouldn’t you think? What should Kerry do? What will he do? What about if there is no conspiracy to keep bin Laden under wraps, but it just so happens that he’s captured in mid-October. What are Kerry’s options?

I’d recommend something along the lines of saying, 'It’s about damn time our wonderful soldiers and/or excellent Allies captured him, and we would’ve done so a lot earlier if our leaders hadn’t let themselves get distracted by a needless, foolish and costly war in Iraq" but that’s just me.

I think he’s really gonna be hosed if that happens. It’s not gonna work to criticize the Bush Administration; that would just bite him in the ass. However, I think it’s possible that enough voters would be skeptical that the incredible timing of the event, if it were to happen in October, was a coincidence, and it could hurt Bush as easily as it might hurt Kerry. All hypothetical, of course.

If I were Kerry, and that happened, I would take the high ground myself, but assign someone in my campaign staff to sow the seeds of doubt in the media. If he were to be critical himself, people would just see it as partisan griping, and the republicans would have a field day on how “negative” Kerry is.

I think he should tell the truth.

"Bush has bungled homeland security and the war on terrrorism to the point that the capture of UBL – although good news – means that the US has captured the figurehead of a terrorist movement that has spread throughout the world since 9-11.

"The Bush Administration may brag its success in capturing UBL. It is true, our fine military has struck an important blow against the headquarters of the most dangerous terrorist group that we know of. But the very same Bush Adminsitration admits that unknown numbers of Al Qaeda agents are inside the United States, actively plotting to conduct more attacks.

"In the last three years, this country has been through more orange alerts than babies have gone through Pampers. [Ok, might need to change that line] The Al Qaeda agents that have infilrated our country on George Bush’s watch will make sure that we continue to have more threats against airports, landmarks, and subways long after Osama has been put into his deep, dark hole.

"Why is that? It’s because Bush has underfunded homeland security and created a bureaucratic mess in the Department of Homeland Security, all while pursuing foreign adventures and alienating our allies. The Al Qaeda terrorists already in this country have been the greatest threat to national security since the war in Afghanistan sent UBL running from his sanctuary.

“George Bush won’t say this, but the chances of terror plots stopping after the capture of UBL are about the same as violence stopping in Iraq after Saddam was captured and his sons put on ice. Bush can’t be trusted with the security of this country, because he doesn’t know what the threats are, and he doesn’t know how to deal with them.”

Then add in some positive spin about what Kerry is going to do to bolster the FBI, increase port security, help first responders, etc. At least, that’s what I’d recommend to him.

The only voters who would be skeptical of this are those who are already voting for Kerry.

I don’t think he can wait until it happens. In early October he needs to bring up that it has already taken far too long to bring bin Laden to justice, and that the incompetence (well, said more nicely) of the Bush Admin. has cost too many lives. Then if the surprise happens it might look like a response to Kerry, and might be considered as a case of at last.

He also needs some good intelligence of his own. If it turns out that we were keeping him until October, Bush’s goose is cooked.

I agree with Ravenman.

Kerry should point out that capturing OBL more than three years after 9/11 is too little too late; that Bush’s actions, while he let OBL roam free for three years, have made the world a more dangerous place, where OBL matters much less than he did in 2001.

I think a good strategy now would be for Kerry to point out how much al Qaeda has thrived under Bush, that Bush’s actions in Afghanistan did little but scatter them into independent cells with little centralization, that the invasion of Iraq has been a boost to recruiting and that capturing bin Laden now really would have no effect on stopping aQ. Kerry should do all this now- before they let ObL out of his box- so it doesn’t look like sour grapes.

Once Bush pulls ObL out of his sock Kerry should praise the military but also make it clear that if Bush had done things right in first place they would have had Sammy Bin three years ago. He can be subtle about it by praising the troops for being diligent and successful even though they were greatly under manned and unsupported, basically make it sound as they they succeeded in spite of the Chimp, not because of him.

As for the tinfoil hat stuff. I would prefer if Kerry kept his virtue on that regard and let us on the internet, and groups that Kerry has no plausible relationship to, rake that shit for him…and rake it we will.

“Incompetence” is prefectly OK having been used on The News Hour by retired Air Force Chief of Staff Merrill McPeak regarding the Bush administrations conduct of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. McPeak also used the expression that the administration had “made a hash” of them.

quote]He also needs some good intelligence of his own.

Bush’s intelligence, both that internal to him personally and that supplied from outside, has been dismal.

Not true. I know several people who fully plan to vote for Bush but have said how suspicious it would look if bin Laden were suddenly to be captured right before the election.

Having other people say Bush is as incompetent as he clearly is works - a Kerry ad has to be more circumspect. As for intelligence, I meant Kerry’s. Having a source testify that ObL was in custody for months and brought out in October would be lovely.

To some extent, I don’t agree that the intelligence available either before 9/11 or before the invasion was bad - rather the analysis of it was bad. There is always going to be contradictory intelligence on anything, and good intelligence is going to be hidden in the bad or trivial. Before 9/11 the problem was no one acted on the intelligence there, and before the war the problem was that their mind was made up. David Kay testified that NSA (and Condi) should have done a better job in analyzing what was there. Maybe true, but Shrub appointed them, and should have asked questions. I think things would have been a lot different if someone with the skepticism and intellectual curiousity of, say, Clinton, were in charge.

Kerry’s a fool if he doesn’t already have a plan on hand for responding to the capture of Bin Laden and a terrorist attack on American soil.

Given that it seems he already anticipated Bush’s other “Ace in the Hole”, the death of Reagan, which he handled quite nicely, I doubt he hasn’t already anticipated these things.

If Bush had a pre-captured Usama bin Laden up his sleeve, I’d expect that he’d have started to play up the evil ones name by now. He’s only publically mentioned bin Laden’s name on 10 occasions since 2003. Six of those occasions were in direct response to a question.

You guys are all discussing something that won’t happen. Here’s why:

  1. It’s been a long time now - if Osama really was in custody, somebody would have leaked it by now. Secrets don’t keep.

  2. Bush’s campaign has taken on so much water that he needs a major boost now, and has for months (ever since the Abu Ghraib photos, roughly). Given the administration’s predilection for timing even security warnings politically, this is certainly something they’d have done already if they could.

  3. The capture of Saddam didn’t make any real difference, so there’s little political value in springing this one either.

  4. It’s become widely understood that Al Qaeda is a much bigger problem than one man, even if he’s the leader. Capturing him now won’t have the same effect in TWAT as it would have in late 2001/early 2002 - AQ survives anyway and will still be a threat.

  5. Bush would have to explain why he said it didn’t matter if Osama were captured.

  6. The Pakistanis don’t have him either, or they’d have been able to produce him when the pressure was put on by the administration to produce a “high value target” during the Democratic Convention.

Bush does need something major to happen or he’s going back to his brush ranch. He (or at least Rove) knows that. But the only remaining hope is for a rapid, credible economic turnaround, or to goad Kerry somehow into saying something really embarrassing. The first would be a miracle, and Kerry’s too cautious and experienced to do the second. There will be no October Surprise, not one of any significance or credibility anyway.

I agree with you in general, but I question a couple of your points:

I disagree. Look at the capture of Saddam - it’s not really in the news anymore, and probably isn’t going to help Bush’s campaign much. If they were going to time the event (and I’m not insinuating anything - just hypothetically), they wouldn’t want to leave too much time for voters to forget about it, or for voters to realize that it didn’t really have any effect. If they did it too soon, the Democrats could come back and say: “Look, we aren’t any better off now.” And the way polls run, there’s always a little reaction after a major event, and it always subsides over time. So you’d want to time it so that the swell doesn’t subside before the election. If you’ve got a nitrous-oxide canister under your hood, you want to fire that off in the final lap, not waste it in the middle of the race.

Well I can’t remember now, but I bet there was a jump in the polls right after that happened.

But it might have an effect on voters who are really deciding emotionally rather than intellectually, and let’s not fool ourselves - there are plenty of people out there who do so. This election could very well come down to a tiny percentage of such voters.

BTW, I’m assuming you are intending some meaning for TWAT other than “vagina”. :confused:

If Bush can still be as high in the polls as he is, after so many statements he made about Iraq turned out to be utterly false, and given the fact that he is still spreading those falsehoods to this day, I sadly would have to conclude that that would make very little difference. He would just double-talk his way out of it, like he always does, and people will gobble it up like candy.

The War Against Terror, dude. Not my idea - I think that comes from a Pit thread a few months ago.

The Saddam capture made a blip in the polls, but not for long, IIRC. Won’t happen again, not under obviously-suspicious circumstances, and not with the war still going on. That and the economy seem likely to be the deciding factors.

I interpret the polls to mean that fewer and fewer people are willing to swallow the aw-shucks lies from this guy - Kerry’s ratings were rising steadily most of this year even without him really doing a damn thing, while Bush’s were steadily dropping no matter how many terror threats were announced etc.

I’d also be more cautious about attributing Bush’s support level to simple stupidity. It’s entirely sane to believe he has screwed up but is learning, has lied but in a good cause, and is willing to kick butts he thinks need kicking, and to be hesitant to believe that Kerry would do any better against either Iraq or terrorism. I suggest that there are few voters left who are both still fooled and truly “defoolable” - all the information is out there already.

Remind us that he’s a war hero and that Bush lied about WMDs.


Well I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree. One wouldn’t have thought Saddam’s capture would have made a blip in the polls, given that his govt. was already toppled, and that Bush’s entire justification for the invasion in the first place had already been discredited. Yet it did make a blip. You can’t always apply logic in predicting poll results.

Where did I use the word “stupidity”?

Huh? How could one be “fooled” and “defoolable”? If the latter is true, the former must be false. I’m not getting your meaning.

And yes, I have no doubt that there are plenty of people out there who still believe that Saddam collaborated with OBL to plot 9/11, and that we found the WMDs.

That’s exactly why if there is a surprise it will be in October. If it were announced now, the blip would be gone by election day, and there is the possibility of a terrorist incident, in revenge, between the capture and the election.

I agree that a capture would not make much difference - right after 9/11 there might have been the possibility of significant damage to the terrorists, but aQ is smart enough to be planning for a capture. However, I thought the point of this thread was contingency planning - just in case. Good leaders do that - unlike certain leaders who, when we weren’t greated in Baghdad with flowers, didn’t have a clue what to do next.

Salon has a good article on how Bush is beginning to resemble Carter, who the Republicans were also expecting might pull a “surprise” re: the hostages, though any political gain from such a move would be small-to-nil.

You know what would be the cleverest response Kerry could make to an “October Surprise” bin Laden capture?

"Like all Americans, I am overjoyed and relieved that our military forces have captured this enemy of all humanity. For years this monster has been the mastermind behind attacks on America and with his capture this danger ends. This has been a great victory for the American armed forces.

And now with the threat of terrorism on the wane, we must look to the other challenges that face America. Challenges like poverty and injustice and intolerance. Challenges like enviromental crisis and violence in our classrooms. Etc…"

In other words what would Bush do if Kerry declared a victory? Would Bush turn around and claim that the capture of bin Laden was unimportant and the war continued? That would just diminish his own surprise and raise the question of the overall strategy of the Bush administration against terrorism. Or would Bush try to go the other way and agree that terrorism was no longer a major issue and try to compete against kerry on other issues?