Heading Off a McCain October Surprise

Arianna Huffington has been waiting for the oily GOP to spring its dreaded October Surprise. Now it appears she has a hunch as to what it may be (if it comes) and how Barack Obama and the Democrats can wage a defense. Do read the whole thing — and if anyone from the Obama campaign stumbles across this, you should too:

As the one arrow left in McCain’s quiver– other than appealing to racists — national security becomes the likeliest playing field for that GOP fall tradition, the October Surprise.

… So what might be the final weeks’ bombshell? Here is Tom Brokaw on Meet the Press:

“There are some people in the Obama campaign who believe that there’s a concerted effort under way to get Osama bin Laden before Election Day and bring him out of captivity, dead or alive, in some fashion.”… Of course, capturing Osama just before the election has been an October GOP dream in 2002, 2004, 2006, and now 2008.

But, barring the fulfillment of that dream, it seems all-but-certain that McCain will look for another way to highlight what the Newsweek numbers show is his only remaining strength. So Obama — and his foreign policy expert Joe Biden — need to make a concerted effort to neutralize the issue by going directly at McCain’s supposed strong suit. Doing so would make the success of an October Surprise far less likely.

The best line of attack would be drawing attention to McCain’s actual record. His national security rep in 2008 is as over-inflated as the housing bubble was in 2005.

The McCain Doctrine, if there is such a thing, basically boils down to two core beliefs: 1) you don’t sit down and talk with your enemies (and sometimes you don’t sit down and talk with your friends, either — see Spain) 2) the surge was the greatest, most successful strategy ever, and should be exported to Afghanistan.

Obama can make his case on the wrong-headedness of McCain’s approach by calling on a persuasive lineup of evidence, including the words of Gen. David Petraeus and Gen. David McKiernan (commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan), and the latest consensus findings of all 16 U.S. intelligence agencies.

As Huffington notes, the McCain camp is all too happy to spit on Obama and call him “naive,” but they are far less likely to do that to their messiah Petraeus.

The next thing Huffington suggests revolves around the Iraqi surge (which, as you’ll recall, McCain can’t even define). The GOP touts its success (even though, as the writer reminds us, it failed at its stated goal of political reconciliation in Iraq), but Gen. Petraeus says that any reductions in sectarian violence that were achieved are “fragile” and “reversible.” And other US military leaders warn that the surge strategy is not the way to go in increasingly troubled Afghanistan.

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