Mr. Obama's November Surprise

The phrase “October Surprise” has a long history in American politics.  It refers to that event, policy, or government statement that changes everything in advance of the famous “first Tuesday after the first Monday in November.”  That was the Founders’ quaint way of describing Election Day.

One famous example of an October Surprise was the announcement on October 26, 1972 by National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger that “we believe that peace is at hand” in the long, drawn out negotiations to end American involvement in the Vietnam War.  President Nixon was headed to a landslide victory that year against the hapless Democratic presidential nominee, Sen. George McGovern (SD).  But the Kissinger statement seemed to most observers to “put the election on ice.”  Twelve days after Kissinger’s statement, Richard Nixon carried every state except Massachusetts.  He even carried McGovern’s own home state of South Dakota. 

Well, now we have another surprise coming – but not until November.  That’s because President Obama’s HHS Department doesn’t want to upset the apple cart prior to crucial midterm elections.  Only in November will Americans learn how much their health care costs will rise after the implementation of President Obama’s “signature” legislative accomplishment, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010.

Of course, the administration doesn’t admit that it is waiting until after voters cast their November ballots to give them a nasty post-election “surprise.”  As the Washington Times notes, there are some states in which word is already leaking out.  Those happen to be states with hotly contested Senate contests.

We see this pattern of obfuscation and distraction repeated in the president’s unwillingness to commit himself in a public and timely way on how extensive an amnesty he is prepared to grant those who have entered the country illegally.  That could be another after-the-balloting shock.

Then there’s the mystery of the Bowe Bergdahl investigation.  It should not take so very long to determine whether this soldier went absent without leave (AWOL) before being taken in by the Taliban for five years.  The Obama Defense Department has hushed up this important inquiry.  Some of the worst of the worst terrorists in the world were freed in return for the release of a soldier who National Security Advisor Susan Rice assured us “served with distinction and honor.”  Did he really serve so?  Or did he walk away from his post and willingly align himself with his country’s enemies?  Inquiring minds want to know. 

For now, when national security is of heightened interest to Americans in view of the ISIS crisis, the administration is throwing a wet blanket over the Army’s report on Bergdahl’s disappearance.  Might we learn more in November?  Perhaps.  But if we do, then that will be another example of a cynical abuse of power.

The whole concept of “the consent of the governed” is being undermined by the Obama administration.  We need to have a more honest approach to governing.  Many criticized Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) for yelling “You lie!” when the president spoke to a joint session of Congress in September 2009.  Mr. Obama was duly offended by the outburst from a congressional backbencher. 

Still, as events have unfolded, it is clear that Barack Obama was deceiving Americans when he promised that “if you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor; if you like your health care plan, you can keep your plan.”  This was untrue then.  It is untrue now.  Sen. Howard Baker gained national fame during the Watergate investigations by asking every witness, “What did the president know, and when did he know it?”  It is now clear that President Obama knew that his statement was untrue, and he knew that it was untrue when he made it!  You could hardly ask for a better definition of a lie. 

Liberals like to chant, “Bush lied – people died” with respect to the presence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.  Clearly, the failure to find WMD after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq was a policy disaster for the Bush administration. 

It was also a failure for which Republicans paid dearly in the elections of 2006 and 2008.  But no one has ever shown that George W. Bush willfully sought to deceive Americans about WMD.  He thought they were there.  Every intelligence service in the world thought they were there.  What we have since seen in Damascus, Syria, with Bashar al-Assad using poison gas on his Syrian opponents, strongly suggests that those canisters could have had “made in Baghdad” written on them.  But we do not know this. 

Much of government is like that.  We do the best we can.  We have to act on limited knowledge.  President Obama may have sincerely thought that he could control health care costs by taking over one sixth of the U.S. economy in 2010. 

If he thought that, he may be the only person ever to think that government reduces costs by creating a monopoly.  Still, even that monumental error would have been more excusable than the intentional deception Mr. Obama and his administration engaged in to ram his health care bill  through Congress.

So now we face an important national election, with a Sword of Damocles hanging over our heads.  For millions of us, the question is not whether our health care costs will go up after Election Day, but by how much.  And will that sword cut the cord of our coverage?

It’s not an October Surprise.  It may be a November Sticker Shock.  Or maybe we should call it a Halloween Aftershock.

Ken Blackwell is a senior fellow at the Family Research Council, in Washington, D.C.