Letter From Mark Green, Public Advocate of New York City
"We've got to make it sure that we - that we lose none of the close states that we won in 2000 - Florida or Ohio or Colorado or Nevada or New Hampshire, but - and you also gotta have a couple of surprises and we've got a couple of surprises that we intend to spring."
- Karl Rove to Sean Hannity on September 29th, 2004.
I invite readers to submit entries to the "Name the October Surprise" contest by answering this question: "What do you think is a possible October Surprise that Bush will announce in order to try to win a close election?"
This contest emerges out of history -- political history and Bush history.
First, a president or party in power with the ability to create reality or affect events has in the past tried to influence elections with late revelations. The best modern example occurred in 1972 when then National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger announced at the end of the Nixon-McGovern campaign that "peace is at hand" with Vietnam. This was near-perfect example of an O.S. because it provided an upbeat answer to a vexing problem for the incumbent...and couldn't be disproven by Election Day.
Second, there's the Bush family history. From the time that Bush 41 hired such gunslingers as Lee Atwater and Karl Rove on his behalf (see the untraceable slanders of Mark White, Ann Richards and Jim Hightower as described in "Bush's Brain" by James Moore and Wayne Slater), dirty tricks were a family staple. More recently, John McCain, Max Cleland and John Kerry all saw their war valor besmirched by Bush operatives. And, of course, there's been Bush's and Cheney's serial dissembling on most aspects of the war in Iraq. Also, given the temporary "bounces" Bush got after 9/11, the invasion of Iraq, the capture of Saddam and the Republican Convention, one assumes he'll seek a last, late bounce pre-November 2.
Given this stew of under-handed tactics and political temptations, it's "prudent" to speculate that this October the only surprise will be if there isn't one.
Here's the deal: please send me your prediction of a possible and creative October Surprise. It must be described in 100 words or less and there is only one entry per person (also, please summarize it in up to five words in the Subject line). On Wednesday, September 30th, we'll announce preliminary results - e.g., several of the most interesting submissions as well as the volume of similar submissions per surprise. Then on Sunday, October 30, we'll announce the "winners" based on the submission(s) which predicted what actually happened. Winners appear live on Air America to bask in the gratitude of a skeptical nation...and will receive a signed copy of The Book on Bush and cool Air America gear.
The goal is to anticipate particular "surprises" in the hope, however small, that Bushies may shy away from what's widely anticipated because it reeks of a political ploy. That is, I believe in preventive wars politically, not militarily.
Is this contest cynical? No, just realistic. A governing elite which seems to embody Mark Twain's axiom that "a lie gets halfway around the world before truth puts on her boots" should be presumed capable of saying or doing almost anything to hold onto power. As Eric Alterman and I wrote in The Book on Bush: How George W. (Mis)leads America, the President straight-facedly declares that there's no proof of global warming, that the jury is out on evolution, that the recession began under Clinton (it started in March, 2001), that there were an adequate 60 stems cells lines for research (when there were 11), that Saddam = al Qaeda - and now that a vote for Kerry is a vote for a terrorist attack on the U.S. Such a record requires vigilant voters to begin a conversation about what the most messianic, radical, divisive and dissembling president of the modern era could do to win re-election.
Mark Green is the former head of Public Citizen's Congress Watch and Public Advocate of New York City. He's president of the New Democracy Project, a lecturer at New York University and recently edited What We Stand For: A Program for Progressive Patriotism (Newmarket Press).