Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The October Surprise and the November Election

Patrick Caddell
The October Surprise in 2010

At 4:22 p.m. on Friday, October 29, 2010, President Barack Obama stepped into the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House and announced some startling news: Two bombs, hidden inside printer cartridges, had been detected the previous day on a cargo plane heading from Dubai to Chicago.

The detection was obviously good news--but did it really have to be news? That is, wasn’t there much to be gained by staying mum on the news, with an eye to catching the culprits?

Even if the bombs had not exploded as the terrorists had planned, there was no need to let them know that the plot had been foiled, as opposed to the bombs having merely malfunctioned. In intelligence circles, this investigative process is called “walking back the cat”--that is, trying to reverse-engineer the process by which the security system was penetrated in the first place. And that reverse-engineering can best be done in secrecy, before the bomb-makers have a chance to scatter.

But that’s not what happened. Here’s what the President said on that Friday afternoon two years ago:

The American people should know that the counterterrorism professionals are taking this threat very seriously and are taking all necessary and prudent steps to ensure our security. And the American people should be confident that we will not waver in our resolve to defeat al Qaeda and its affiliates and to root out violent extremism in all its forms.

Yes, it’s nice to know that a bomb was thwarted, but it would have been even nicer to know that the bomb-makers had been arrested or killed.

So why didn’t the President wait until he had more good news? What was the hurry on the announcement? We might note that the October 29, 2010, announcement came just four days before the 2010 midterm elections. And the President’s announcement was soon followed byfive “readouts” of Obama conversations with the foreign leaderswhose countries helped unravel the plot. In other words, the Obama administration worked overtime to push its counter-terrorism news to the forefront, just just before the elections.

The result was a decent-sized rally-‘round-the-flag effect. After all, what could Republicans say? Who can be against good news in the war on terror? Perhaps the GOP could have made the point about premature release of sensitive information, but they would have risked looking churlish as a result.

In any case, the impact on the 2010 elections was substantial. According to the exit polls, a full nine percent of those voting on November 2 said that combating terror was the most important issue--and of that nine-percent slice of the electorate, the Democrats, boosted by the news of the cartridge bomb, won by double digits. That is, even as they were losing on just about every other issue, the Democrats won on terrorism. The result was a lift for Congressional Democrats; they probably held on to an additional Senate seat or two, and perhaps also another half-dozen House seats.

So we have to ask: Cui bono? Who benefited? If the answer is that the Democrats in Congress were the beneficiaries, then the finger of suspicion might point to Democratic politicos with access to security information. And so we can focus on Tom Donilon, whom I first met in 1976, during Jimmy Carter’s first presidential campaign. After a long career in the political vineyards--including some time spent plucking the juicy grapes at Fannie Mae--Donilon has now ended up as President Obama’s national security adviser. A political operative put in charge of national security might seem like a joke, but the real joke is on the American people, because no one ever doubted that Donilon would bring his political bag of tricks with him to the National Security Council. And as I have noted here at Breitbart.com in the past, those damaging leaks in the summer of 2012--damaging to the country, but helpful to Obama--seem to have Donilon’s fingerprints all over them.

The October Surprise in US History

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