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FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, OCT. 24, 2014
OCTOBER SURPRISE REVISITED
BY BOB FRANKEN
Well, I seem to have had my own October surprise. Ever since I wrote that the concept was outdated, that there wasn’t any such thing anymore, I’ve seen evidence that we’re up to our necks in them.
Surprise No. 1 has to be Ebola. Obviously the deadly illness is not the concoction of some sick-minded political operative, like so many late campaign events are. It’s a deadly force of nature. What’s made it an election issue is the uneven response by medical authorities and the impression that the boss, President Barack Obama, has not been up to the job of whipping into shape an effective plan.
That perception is largely unfair, but the crack White House communications team once again has been overwhelmed by developments and has left the chief executive unprotected from charges that he’s not in command of things. They haven’t even been able to stay on top of the incendiary and somewhat irresponsible coverage on cable. The Republicans have taken full advantage, fanning the flames with simple-minded ideas aimed at a nation that’s been allowed to panic because no one on the administration’s side has been effectively controlling the message. So the GOP has been drawing campaign blood just days before the midterms with crude approaches, like suggesting a total ban on travel from the West African countries consumed by Ebola.
Never mind that it’s unworkable; the harsh heckling from the opposition seems to have intimidated the president somewhat, or that’s how it looks, and Americans don’t like to feel that their leaders can be successfully browbeaten.
In the Obama administration’s case, that line of attack hits the president where he’s vulnerable. He’s been worn down with a series of goof-ups. Where do we start? How about the rollout of Obamacare last year, which was an unmitigated disaster. The failure to recognize the capabilities of ISIL ranks right up there, or perhaps, more accurately, down there. Stir in ingredients like the Veterans Affairs scandal, the klutzy performance of the Secret Service, etc., and it’s easy to understand why Americans get a little skeptical about their government and start having doubts about the guy at the top.
It helps explain why so many Democratic candidates in this midterm election are running for office and doing everything they can to distance themselves from Barack Obama, while the Republicans do everything but surgically attach them at the hip. The president has gone along, and stayed in the background as his fellow party members deny that he exists. But even there, the man who always had a way with words is now tripping over his mouth. He’s appears to have taken lessons from Vice President Joe Biden
So here came another October Surprise: Yes, he told interviewer Al Sharpton it’s true that his fellow Democrats were racing away from him, but, in reality, they are “folks who vote with me. They have supported my agenda in Congress.” For all his partisans who are pretending they don’t even know him, that was a shocker. One had even refused to answer whether she’d cast her ballot for him, but all of them suddenly were being forced to admit that they were, in truth, on the same side.
There are a few days left,a short time before this year’s balloting is history. By most indications, the Republicans will take control of the Senate and then have Capitol Hill as the base of their fight to make Barack Obama’s two remaining years a frustrating exercise in lame-duck futility.
There’s still time, though, for a startling event to have a huge impact in the last throes of the campaign, but short of that, it’s over. If, somehow, the Democrats maintain control of the Senate, mark that down as one huge surprise.
© 2014 Bob Franken
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.