The "October Surprise" Revisited
Five days before the 2004 presidential election, Osama bin Laden released a video to Al Jazeera; it was his first on camera appearance in nearly three years. It was obvious at the time who benefited politically from this "October surprise." The tape helped George W. Bush and hurt his challenger, John Kerry. Given the timing and subject matter of the tape, it was clear that Bin Laden was attempting to influence the U.S. election, and, almost surely, knew that the tape would benefit President Bush.
One of the (so far) overlooked revelations in Ron Suskind's new book, The One Percent Doctrine, is the fact that the CIA reached this same conclusion about the bin Laden tape almost immediately. Here's a passage from Sidney Blumenthal's review of Suskind's book:
On Oct. 29, 2004, Osama bin Laden released hisOf course the fact that the Bush administration itself had concluded that the purpose of the tape was to tilt the election in favor of the President did not stop the Bush/Cheney campaign from sending its surrogates out to make the exact opposite claim, and right on the eve of the election:
"October surprise," an 18-minute tape attacking
Bush. The CIA analyzed the tape and concluded
that "bin Laden's message was clearly designed
to assist the President's reelection." That day,
at a meeting at the CIA, acting director John
McLaughlin remarked, "Bin Laden certainly did
a nice favor today for the president." [Jami]
Miscik [deputy director of the CIA's Directorate
of Intelligence] presented analysis that bin
Laden felt challenged by the rise of the thuggish
Zarqawi, who called himself commander of
al-Qaida in Iraq, and that bin Laden was
refocusing attention through his tape on his
cosmic and continuing one-on-one battle with
Bush. "Certainly," she said, "he would want Bush
to keep doing what he's doing for a few more
Here's Bill Kristol:
But the fact remains that Osama bin Laden is not
neutral in our election. He is trying to intimidate
Americans into voting against George W. Bush.
I don't believe the American people are going to
honor his wishes.
And here's Rudy Giuliani on Meet the Press, making no sense at all:
Well, the fact is, and if you want to be clear about
the rest of the statement, bin Laden--he certainly
didn't say he was in favor of John Kerry and I'm
sure he's not but he certainly wants George
Bush out of the White House. . . .
I have no idea what his position is on John Kerry.
He didn't say it, and I would imagine, you know, he
has no interest in who wins. I do think he has
an interest in who loses, and that's one of the
reasons he put in all those criticisms of President
Why would Osama bin Laden, who's been quiet forPeggy Noonan:
so long, come out and virtually try and influence
the election today in favor of John Kerry by
attacking the president the way he did? Let's be
analytical here. Why would he do that if he didn't
think Bush was a stronger leader? . . .
Clearly, he wants George Bush to lose, and the
question is why?
This guy is half finished, and the reason is GeorgeDavid Brooks:
Bush. Do you think he wants George Bush to
have a nice day on Tuesday? I don't think so.
I think people will say look, here's this guy. He
wants to take down Bush. He wants to change
And finally, Rush Limbaugh:
If this -- if John Kerry wins this race and they got
the bin Laden tape out there, do you realize what
the conclusion will be by militant Islamists? That
they did it -- they had the ability to affect the
election of this country without firing a shot like
they had to do in Spain.
Well, irony of ironies, al-Qaeda's real goal was apparently to get Bush re-elected, and it succeeded. All "without firing a shot." I wonder if the President ever sent Bin Laden a thank-you note.