Sunday, October 01, 2006

More October Surprise Speculation

[UPDATED below.]

As I've said before, I think it's extremely likely that the White House will try to put the country on Red Alert before election day. I stand by the following prediction:

If it looks like they're going to lose the mid-term elections, these guys will try to sweep the pieces off the chessboard, whatever it takes. Bombing Iran? Yes, absolutely. Bombing, blockade, whatever it takes. Mounting some sort of fantasy land special forces commando raid snipe hunt to capture Bin Laden based on "new actionable" evidence? Yes, absolutely. Foiling a trumped up domestic terror plot? Yes, they would do it. Using tactical nuclear weapons? If they thought it would help, Yes, they would do it.

So, where are we now? Well, let's see. Gas prices have been coming down. Score 1 for the GOP. The Republicans succeeded in passing the Preznit's torture legislation, which counts as a political victory in this election cycle, even if history and the popular culture will ultimately record it as an abject betrayal of American values. Score another point for the GOP.

On the other side of the ledger, the murderous civil war in Iraq has blasted its way back into the headlines, courtesy of the latest semi-suppressed NIE and Bob Woodward's latest book (in which Woodward apparently re-acquaints himself with the practice of journalism, having served as a hagiographer for the Bush Administration in his previous two books.) Anything else going on that might affect the Cheney/Rove/Bush calculus?

Well, yes. It turns out that the House Republican leadership has been complicit in six-term Republican sexual predator and Congressman Mark Foley's sexual abuse of underage boys under their care. Republican Speaker of the House Denny Hastert and Republican House Majority Leader John Boehner each had specific information that Foley was engaged in the sexual abuse of boys under their care, and they covered it up and allowed it to continue. The scandal is widening. This is an absolute disaster for the GOP.

I think it's pretty much a sure thing the White House is going to try to sweep the pieces off the chess board somehow. But what are their options? How can they push Iraq and the Foley/Hastert/Boehner scandal off the front pages?

They need to do something that isn't transparent show business and that can't be shrugged off by Democrats. The success of a stunt like this depends in part on its effectiveness in dividing the opposition. Cheney/Rove/Bush need to do something that (i) a substantial Democratic constituency already supports, or is disposed to support; (ii) can't just be "undone", i.e. changes the political landscape so that the mere doing of it automatically constrains the remaining options, so the debate can be structured as being about "what America does next" rather than "was it a good idea for Bush to do this?"; (iii) provides the media with an easy-to-understand GOP-friendly frame and story-line, preferably one they're already familiar with; and (iv) can be presented as a response to one or more problems the existence and urgency of which Democrats have already acknowledged.

UPDATE: I'm thinking through manufactured crisis scenarios in which the White House would try to position itself as standing with Israel against Iran. There are at least three necessary elements for this kind of stunt: (1) the White House needs to make an urgent, categorical, non-negotiable demand that Iran (or some other sufficiently menacing Enemy) obey the White House on some point or other; (2) the demand has to be structured so that there is zero risk that Iran (or the other Enemy) could accede to the demand without utterly humiliating itself and handing Bush a massive victory; and (3) the urgency of the demand has to be evidence-proof, i.e. there can't be any way to discredit the legitimacy of the demand through objective evidence.

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