Thursday, September 09, 2004


I just realized that there will be no October surprise. The Bush administration will not magically produce Osama bin Laden just in time to produce a landslide victory Nov. 2.

I’m not sure why I didn’t think of it before. It’s been right in front of me: There’s been no shortage of complaints that President Bush and his cynical, sleazy crowd have focused entirely on claiming that our presence in Iraq is a good thing, vital to the war on terrorism, even though it’s diverted resources away from capturing bin Laden. That bin Laden, ostensibly the mastermind behind 9/11, wasn’t mentioned during or since the Republican National Convention means we aren’t holding him prisoner somewhere.

Not that the Republicans necessarily need him. The polls are against Kerry, and most Democrats and liberals I know are gloomily certain we’re getting four more years of this nightmare. The polls, in fact, seem to be increasingly in Bush’s favor — based on what, I don’t know — and largely united in message. Strangely, the most significant note of discord is the Fox poll. As a conservative mouthpiece, the predictable thing for Fox would do is just what it’s done in the past: Produce numbers showing an outsize show of support for Bush, way ahead of what other polls find.

But the Fox numbers are consistently showing Bush with only a modest lead, surely within the margin of error.

It’s possible Fox has decided to lay low for a while, feeling heat from charges that it slants news. It’s also possible it’s diminishing expectations to make the results it predicts look all the more spectacular, just as the White House prepped the nation for a deficit bigger than anyone else expected, just so it looked better when the actual deficit was announced. (Although a federal deficit of $422 billion is still a record, not to mention pretty bloody awful.)

Neither of these scenarios is all that likely, but neither is the idea that Fox has suddenly become fair and balanced. While it’s a relief to find one conspiracy theory collapsing, these days there’s plenty to go around.

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