Romney, GOP Appear to be Planning “October Surprise” on Libya . . . Will it Work?

The Romney campaign and the GOP appear to be rolling out an “October Surprise” in the leadup to to tomorrow night’s presidential debate.

On Sunday, the Wall Street Journal published an op-ed by Mitt Romney in which he supposedly proposed “A new course for the Middle East.  Here’s the opening:

Disturbing developments are sweeping across the greater Middle East. In Syria, tens of thousands of innocent people have been slaughtered. In Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood has come to power, and the country’s peace treaty with Israel hangs in the balance. In Libya, our ambassador was murdered in a terrorist attack. U.S. embassies throughout the region have been stormed in violent protests. And in Iran, the ayatollahs continue to move full tilt toward nuclear-weapons capability, all the while promising to annihilate Israel….

Yet amid this upheaval, our country seems to be at the mercy of events rather than shaping them. We’re not moving them in a direction that protects our people or our allies.

What follows is several paragraphs of criticism of President Obama’s policies as Romney interprets them. For example, Romney accuses the President of “allow[ing] or leadership to atrophy,” “misunderstanding our values,” and “thinks that weakness will win favor with our adversaries,” but provides no evidence for these claims.

The only “solutions” Romney puts forward are also vague. He argues that we must develop a “coherent strategy” of supporting our Middle Eastern allies and also “restore our credibility with Iran.” Based on Romney’s previous statements, he seems to be suggesting that somehow if he is President, the Iranians will be more terrified of him than weak, Carter-like Barack Obama.

It means placing no daylight between the United States and Israel. And it means using the full spectrum of our soft power to encourage liberty and opportunity for those who have for too long known only corruption and oppression. The dignity of work and the ability to steer the course of their lives are the best alternatives to extremism.

But this Middle East policy will be undermined unless we restore the three sinews of our influence: our economic strength, our military strength and the strength of our values. That will require a very different set of policies from those President Obama is pursuing.

Yesterday Craig Unger wrote that he had learned from an anonymous source that GOP operatives will

unleash a new two-pronged offensive that will attack Obama as weak on national security, and will be based, in part, on new intelligence information regarding the attacks in Libya that killed U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens on Sept. 11.

The source, who has firsthand knowledge of private, high-level conversations in the Romney camp that took place in Washington, D.C., last week, said that at various times the GOP strategists referred to their new operation as the Jimmy Carter Strategy or the October Surprise.

He added that they planned to release what they hoped would be “a bombshell” that would make Libya and Obama’s foreign policy a major issue in the campaign. “My understanding is that they have come up with evidence that the Obama administration had positive intelligence that there was going to be a terrorist attack on the intelligence.”

The source described the Republicans as chortling with glee that the Obama administration “definitely had intel” about the attack before it happened. “Intelligence can be graded in different ways,” he added, “and sometimes A and B don’t get connected. But [the Romney campaign] will try to paint it to look like Obama had advance knowledge of the attack and is weak on terrorism.”

“Chortling with glee?” The apparent goal of all this GOP strategizing is to make Barack Obama look like Jimmy Carter circa 1980. Romney and Ryan have both been trying to do this for months, with little effect.

To be honest, I’m having a hard time taking all this too seriously, but today Reps. Darrell Issa and Jason Chaffetz of the House Committee on Oversight and Government claimed to have information to prove that:

Despite two explosions and dozens of other security threats, U.S. officials in Washington turned down repeated pleas from American diplomats in Libya to increase security at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi where the U.S. ambassador was killed…

In a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton [read the full letter here (pdf), Chairman Darrell Issa and Rep. Jason Chaffetz of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee said their information came from “individuals with direct knowledge of events in Libya.”

Issa, R-Calif. and Chaffetz, R-Utah said the Sept. 11 attack in Benghazi that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans was the latest in a long line of attacks on Western diplomats and officials in Libya in the months before Sept. 11.

The letter listed 13 incidents, but Chaffetz said in an interview there were more than 50. Two of them involved explosive devices: a June 6 blast that blew a hole in the security perimeter. The explosion was described to the committee as “big enough for forty men to go through”; and an April 6 incident where two Libyans who were fired by a security contactor threw a small explosive device over the consulate fence.

“A number of people felt helpless in pushing back” against the decision not to increase security and “were pleading with them to reconsider,” Chaffetz said. He added that frustrated whistleblowers were so upset with the decision that they were anxious to speak with the committee.

Issa and Chaffetz will hold a hearing on the issue next Wednesday, October 10.

Just a side note: Jason Chaffetz is a convert to Mormonism who attend BYU and is a Romney surrogate.  He also spoke at the Republican Convention.

The Wall Street Journal fired another salvo today with another op-ed by Bret Stephens: Benghazi Was Obama’s 3 a.m. Call Here’s the concluding paragraph, which sums up the entire argument pretty well:

The U.S. ignores warnings of a parlous security situation in Benghazi. Nothing happens because nobody is really paying attention, especially in an election year, and because Libya is supposed to be a foreign-policy success. When something does happen, the administration’s concerns for the safety of Americans are subordinated to considerations of Libyan “sovereignty” and the need for “permission.” After the attack the administration blames a video, perhaps because it would be politically inconvenient to note that al Qaeda is far from defeated, and that we are no more popular under Mr. Obama than we were under George W. Bush. Denouncing the video also appeals to the administration’s reflexive habits of blaming America first. Once that story falls apart, it’s time to blame the intel munchkins and move on.

Jake Tapper also helped out by trying to get White House spokesman Jay Carney to comment on the charges from Issa and Chaffetz. Here’s the response:

Carney said that “embassy security is a matter that is in the purview of the State Department,” and noted that “Secretary Clinton instituted an accountability review that is underway as we speak” while the investigation of the attack itself is being conducted by the FBI.

The press secretary said that “from the moment our facility was attacked” the president has been focused on providing security to all diplomatic posts “and bringing the killers to justice.”
About the list of security issues, Carney said it was a “known fact that Libya is in transition” and that in the eastern part of Libya in particular there are militant groups and “a great number of armed individuals and militias.”

So I guess we can expect Romney to attack President Obama on the Libya issue during tomorrow night’s debate, no doubt accompanied by the famous Romney smirk. Obama should be prepared though, since the “October Surprise” has been so clearly spelled out by multiple media sources.

Is there more to it? Will it work? I kind of doubt it, because it’s clear from the polls that Romney has already destroyed his credibility with voters. But I could be wrong.

What do you think?

41 Comments on “Romney, GOP Appear to be Planning “October Surprise” on Libya . . . Will it Work?”

  1. bostonboomer says:

    Andrew Sullivan says this is just another “desperate idea from the Romney campaign.”

  2. bostonboomer says:

    Ed Kilgore thinks it might be “deliberate disinformation.,” possibly from Jennifer Rubin, who inexplicably still has a job at the Washington Post after flacking for Romney nonstop for the past year. Whatever it is, Kilgore doesn’t expect it to work.

    “Chortling with glee”? Seriously? If that’s true, Team Mitt better put down the crack pipe. They’ve already tried to exploit the death of Ambassador Chris Stevens as a sign of Obama’s “weakness” to no apparent effect. But now, if Unger’s source is reliable, they somehow think that getting down into the murky undergrowth of intelligence reports and claiming the administration knew exactly what would happen in Benghazi and lacked the resolve to do anything about it is going to turn the whole election around!

    • RalphB says:

      From my perspective, it shouldn’t work and we know the ethics of Issa don’t preclude outright lying in pursuit of a goal. That being said, the right wing wurlitzer is a pretty damn powerful beast when it starts spinning full speed. After all, they did convince most Americans that invading Iraq was a great idea. I only hope that once bitten, twice shy holds in this case.

  3. ANonOMouse says:

    Attempting to make some sort of Barack Obama = Jimmy Carter analogy signals desperation.

    Again the GOP forgets who the audience is and who they need to reach. The people they need to reach are the handful of independents that have not yet decided, and I don’t believe the Obama=Carter schtick will mean a damn thing to those folks, because:
    A. They don’t follow politics closely, if they did they wouldn’t be undecided.
    B. Jimmy Carter is likely not even in the memory bank of most undecided voters
    C. Too little, too late.

    The GOP and the Romney campaign tried to capitalize on the attack in Libya at the time and it disgusted most voters and backfired on them. Unless the campaign divulges some deep, dark, classified security information on National television, an act that they called criminal when they were accusing Barack of doing it concerning the killing of Bin Laden, they don’t have a leg to stand on. Today, tomorrow and day-after-tomorrow it will be nothing more than he said/she said/they said, much like their attempt to hype Fast & Furious. Even if it is true, it is also true and provable that the U.S Embassy in Egypy, Iraq, Syria, Iran, Afthanistan and several other muslim countries were subjected to similarly intense demonstrations caused by the release of the Anti-muslim video. This issue is too confusing and convoluted for most Americans to even contemplate, much less an issue that could make them change their vote. But the GOP needs a hail mary, and I have little doubt they’ll sling this bullshit downfield and see if anyone will catch it.

    • bostonboomer says:

      Great comment! I think the Jimmy Carter thing is ridiculous. Romney and his staff are living in another era. History seems to have passed them by sometime during the cold war.

  4. bostonboomer says:

    As far as I can tell, all the Obama administration has done is change stories a little bit based on the FBI/CIA? investigations.

    • RalphB says:

      There was a story in the NYT yesterday, or maybe this morning, that pretty well said the same thing. It also mentioned that special forces personnel has reviewed security after that consulate bombing and that the Libyan security had done a good job of handling the bombing etc,

    • ANonOMouse says:

      That’s what I see too BB. At first they said it was an offshoot from the demonstrations caused by the video, then they said it appeared to be planned. It could have been both. A planned attack that found an opportunity and used it.

      BTW, one of my wingnut cousins called yesterday to tell me that “Obama knew” the embassy was going to be attacked and he “let it happen”. When I asked “for what purpose would the Administration allow a terrorist attack in the closing weeks of a presidential campaign?” the answer was, “he’s a muslim”. So this “Obama the secret muslim knew” meme is circulating furiously through the rightwingnut blogosphere, particularly among southern wingnut Facebookers. It’s a joke.

      • bostonboomer says:

        OMG! That’s crazy. I’m not saying the administration did a good job of communicating about this. They seemed confused and Hillary and her staff were really grieving. They were taken by surprise, but Bush was taken by surprise on 9/11/2001 too. To say Benghazi is somehow “worse than Watergate” is insane. No one normal will buy it.

      • ANonOMouse says:

        “To say Benghazi is somehow “worse than Watergate” is insane. No one normal will buy it.”

        Exactly!!! If Romney takes this tack and regurgitates this nonsensical BS I can’t wait to see Obama shove it right back down his throat. If this is the GOP strategy I would remind them that “loose lips sink ships”. If my dumbcluck cousin knows it’s coming, it’s doomed to fail.

      • Fannie says:

        I can see it…………….maybe Mitt will have an epileptic fit right there for everybody to see when he finds out nobody is buying it.

    • Fannie says:

      Early on the FBI couldn’t get in to investigate because of the dangers.

  5. Fannie says:

    About that memory bank anon.. the talk back in ’76 was all about sex and sin, sex, and sin and lusting from the heart………..and not the mind………….I do remember all the talk about abortion and surpreme court, I don’t think Mitt wants to go there, but he should be pressed to do so, because we know he wants to change the surpreme court, and deny women birth control, and abortion.

    Mitt is looking for that “blame Obama” moment, and if he goes there I think he will try to build a case that Obama is a liar, and excluded American citizens from information that pertains to future security of this country. I think he is going to throw some red meat out, and say Obama allowed this to happen.

    • bostonboomer says:

      I think he will too, and I think he’ll look just as ridiculous as he did the last time.

  6. pdgrey says:

    Mud Cat Sanders just said, one of those southern things I love, thanks Bill Clinton, “They told so many people they have a horse, they finally went out and bought a saddle.”

    • ANonOMouse says:

      What a sweet group of people!

    • RalphB says:

      White people being very white.

    • HT says:

      OMG. just OMG. I used to say my mother’s favorite phrase “Ignorance is no excuse”. After watching that clip ignorance is not a problem anymore. It’s deliberate stupidity. Pat is right, it’s the Kardasshian nation (or however you spell their name) I still can’t believe it. Jeebus, shoot me now.

      • bostonboomer says:

        I had a similar reaction, HT. LOL

      • dakinikat says:

        Are these people everything you ever thought about the Ugly American stereotype or what?

      • HT says:

        Dak, when I used to think of the “Ugly American” it was Marlon Brando in a very good role. What is happening in the last few years is going a long way to redifine my perception. And it’s not good. I know that most americans are intelligent caring individuals – my children’s relatives are american and they are good people. Yet all one sees on major news sites makes one scratch one’s head. I know you all have not gone crazy. Yet some very high profile folks have. It’s disturbing, to say the least. I hope the majority will quell this crap, but I”m not sure how they can do that because frankly it’s gotten out of control territory. You have one helluva mess on your plate.

  7. RalphB says:

    This is why I hated to see all the intelligence information spilled all over the damned media. Anything done in real life is going to be that much harder and more dangerous because of all the political leaking. Has it dawned on all yet that Romney now gets daily intelligence briefings?

    U.S. Said to Be Preparing Potential Targets Tied to Libya Attack

    WASHINGTON — The American military’s top-secret Joint Special Operations Command is preparing detailed information that could be used to kill or capture some of the militants suspected in the attack last month in Libya that killed Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans, senior military and counterterrorism officials said on Tuesday.

    Preparing the “target packages” is the first step in a process that the Pentagon and Central Intelligence Agency are taking in preparation for, and in advance of, any orders from President Obama and his top civilian and military advisers to carry out action against those determined complicit in the attack on the United States Mission in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi.

    • Fannie says:

      Very good point Ralph………….I had forgotten that he gets daily briefs.

      • Fannie says:

        We don’t see what he is seeing in those briefings. I went over to Fox (gag)………..Kirk Lippold, who was USS Cole Commander is out spreading the crap that Obama failed to do something. Hell, Obama wasn’t even a senator then. So while this was going on in Libya, demostrations were on going in 20 some odd countries…………what was Obama suppose to do, send in Cammando’s and troops into all those cities, shooting first and aiming later crap.
        Been there done that, didn’t work in Vietnam, and all the wars since. My memory card is handy, it reads: look what they did to Kerry, never forget.

      • HT says:

        Makes one wonder what these former “commanders” have been offered, particularly when their testimony is questionable.

  8. RalphB says:

    Maybe this October Surprise won’t matter.

    TPM: Tough Nugget

    President Obama now has leads of at least 5 percentage points in states totaling 288 electoral votes. He has leads of between 2 and 5 percentage points in states totaling an additional 44 electoral votes. But it’s that 288 number that stands out to me.

  9. pdgrey says:

    I had to share this Charles Pierce on Senator McDreamy
    there’s a helluva lot more evidence that Warren is actually Cherokee than there is that Brown is actually a Republican.

    Read more:

    And on this Libya thing , Ole Joe, Scarborough as been teeing this up for days with Halperin and the Mike Barnicle the plagiarizer, etc. Yea, it’s shit but that doesn’t mean the media is going to call it crap.

  10. roofingbird says:

    In reading the missive from the House Oversight Committee, it’s clear someone is going to be held accountable. As you all said the other day It could be HRC, but since she is leaving at the end of the term it doesn’t seem the right target, or wedge against Obama.

    • Fannie says:

      I’ve noticed the local paper has cartoons with HRC Benghazi Inquiry………………

      • roofingbird says:

        Hmm. It just doesn’t make sense that a journal would reveal the Ambassador’s concerns, yet he would fail to take it upon himself to request help. You recall there was a similar gap revealed in the case of the Underwear Bomber, where info WAS passed on by the State Dept. but Homeland Security failed to properly assess its value.

      • RalphB says:

        Please note that these stories say “communications were intercepted” but don’t say they were translated, vetted, nor reported to anyone in authority who could have done a damn thing with them. It’s a classic “intelligence” cover your ass leak.