Wednesday 31 October 2018

october surprise

We’re all probably too fatigued already to weather another political bombshell and while the term was informed during the previous US election-cycle and came into common-parlance during the following presidential run-off between Richard Nixon and George McGovern, on this day fifty years ago (1968) President Lyndon Johnson announced probably the first non-spontaneous, last-minute policy shift by ordering cessation of all bombardment in North Vietnam.
Johnson cited progress in the Paris peace negotiations as his motivation but his opponents accused him of making a desperate overture to voters and as a sort of retribution for a series of unfortunate coincidences that tarnished his campaign in 1964 and nearly cost him the election: the unexpected retirement of Nikita Khrushchev, a gay sex scandal of one of Johnson’s top aides, a successful nuclear missile test in China and Labour taking control of the UK. The Vietnam October Surprise failed, however, to carry Hubert Humphrey, Johnson’s vice president, to victory and the Nixon administration continued hostilities. Ironically, the subsequent October Surprise in 1972 that helped the incumbent hold office and defeat Barry Goldwater was a promise delivered by Henry Kissinger that “peace was at hand” and that ground forces were to be withdrawn from Vietnam in the following year.