The most shocking thing about October surprises is that they happen so regularly that they really ought not to be called surprises. If anything, they have become a staple of American presidential and congressional politics, further proof that political parties will stoop to almost anything to win the jobs that most of them end up sacrificing to their empty political agendas.
For those of you unfamiliar with the term, the October surprise is an event that takes place shortly before Election Day in the United States -- the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November -- and has the potential to impact the results.
The term was first used during the 1968 presidential campaign, when President Lyndon B. Johnson announced a suspension of bombing attacks on North Vietnam in the days before the election, allegedly to drum up support for his vice president, Democratic candidate Hubert Humphrey. It has also been claimed that supporters of Humphrey's opponent, Richard Nixon, attempted their own "surprise" by sabotaging peace negotiations with the North Vietnamese. Four years later the announcement by Nixon's national security advisor, Henry Kissinger, that "peace is at hand" brought the term "October surprise" into more common parlance. It turned up again following allegations that Ronald Reagan's supporters had somehow cut a deal with Iranian leaders to hold onto the 52 American hostages in Tehran until after the 1980 election, thus undercutting incumbent Jimmy Carter's chances at the polls. (The hostages were ultimately released on the day of Reagan's inauguration.)
In later years, the "surprises" have become ever more predictable, including an indictment that raised the specter of George H.W. Bush's Iran-Contra involvement days before his contest against Bill Clinton, the surfacing of a drunk-driving violation deep in the past of candidate George W. Bush, and announcements in the weeks leading up to the 2006 midterm elections both of congressional sex scandals and the conviction of Saddam Hussein. Shortly before the 2004 contest, Osama bin Laden famously produced a pre-election video directed at the American people and explicitly mentioning both President Bush and Democratic candidate John Kerry.
Given that such stunners are now as much a staple of U.S. elections as poolside fundraisers in the backyards of billionaires and broken campaign promises, it is worth considering what political rabbits the masterminds of this year's campaign may be inclined to pull out of the hats their bosses long ago threw into the ring -- or what mischief foreign leaders might be willing to manufacture to affect the outcome of this year's U.S. vote.