Beware Trump's October surprise ahead of November elections – opinion

Historically, the closer to the election, the more outrageous it is likely to be, and outrageous is a Trump specialty.

US PRESIDENT Donald Trump tours a pharmaceutical manufacturing plant, amid scientific concern about White House pressure to approve a vaccine before it is proven safe and effective. (photo credit: CARLOS BARRIA / REUTERS)
US PRESIDENT Donald Trump tours a pharmaceutical manufacturing plant, amid scientific concern about White House pressure to approve a vaccine before it is proven safe and effective.
(photo credit: CARLOS BARRIA / REUTERS)
In a vitriolic Labor Day campaign speech parading as a news conference on the White House North Portico, US President Donald Trump predicted a “very safe and very effective” vaccine for COVID-19 could be available as early as next month, just in time to boost his reelection.
Ordinarily such an announcement, at a time when 190,000 Americans have succumbed to the virus and 6.3 million more are infected, would be greeted enthusiastically, but coming from a pathological liar who once recommended injections of bleach, bright light and other quack remedies as curatives, the response has ranged from suspicious to disbelief.
Former vice president Joe Biden, Democratic nominee for president, echoed the skepticism of many Americans. Aware that most scientists and health experts in and out of government doubt a safe and effective vaccine can be found that soon, he said he would want their testimony, not this president’s. Trump has “said so many things that aren’t true, I’m worried if we do have a really good vaccine, people are going to be reluctant to take it,” he said.
His running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris, was more blunt. “There’s very little that we can trust that can comes out of Donald Trump’s mouth,” she said. The president, sounding unhinged at times, called his opponents as “stupid,” “not competent,” “reckless” and “anti-vaccine” – and that was just Monday.
Government scientists are reportedly worried about White House pressure on the Food and Drug Administration to approve a vaccine before it is proven safe and effective, as the law requires. The FDA leadership’s credibility is already suspect in the wake of its emergency authorization for convalescent plasma, and Trump has attacked agency staff as being “deep state” actors for questioning some his pronouncements.
Trump’s abuse of a possible vaccine discovery for his own political gain could endanger millions of Americans who would avoid getting vaccinated because they won’t know this isn’t another Trump hoax or the real thing.
If Trump does plan to spring his miracle cure surprise announcement, he might pick the third presidential debate on October 22 in Nashville. The value of an October surprise is to hold it until almost the last minute to avoid giving the opposition time to respond. Historically, the closer to the election, the more outrageous it is likely to be, and outrageous is a Trump specialty.
Given Trump’s penchant for diversionary tactics, disinformation and surprise revelations, there are likely to be others.
One possibility is an announcement by his consigliere, Attorney-General Bill Barr, of the results of John Durham’s investigation of the Mueller investigation into Russia’s role in the 2016 election. Durham, the US attorney in Connecticut, has turned up “surprising and damaging information,” Barr said, according to National Public Radio, and he refused to rule out releasing it before the election.
Judging by how Barr misrepresented and delayed the Mueller report findings, you can expect him to give his version of Durham’s report without making any substance public, at least not before November 3.
Trump is reportedly planning to attend a peace summit next month in one of the Gulf sheikdoms, possibly the United Arab Emirates, with Israel and several Arab states as a backdrop for the president to declare he has achieved “peace in our time.” He is already claiming a Nobel Peace Prize for the UAE-Israel agreement for mutual recognition and normalization. Administration officials are trying to get others to follow UAE – possibly Bahrain, Oman, Morocco and Sudan.
The president has been on the phone with Saudi King Salman to persuade him to attend. The king is unlikely to show up; he has said there will be no formal diplomatic relations (they already have intelligence and security relations with Israel) until Palestinians get their own state. Palestinian leaders turned down an invitation to the summit.
Trump may stop in Jerusalem on this trip to film campaign ads, possibly with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, targeting his large Evangelical base and conservative Jewish voters.
Other foreign policy surprises could include an announcement removing all remaining US troops from Afghanistan.
Trump may try to rekindle his unrequited love affair with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un by offering another summit, or even a White House invitation. He might use the occasion to announce a realignment of US defense relations with South Korea; Trump has threatened to shrink the American military presence there unless the government paid Washington more.
The initial meeting with Kim in June 2018 was considered – at least by his admirers – a major achievement for the president, but it produced no positive results for the US, although it bestowed a long-sought, but undeserved air of legitimacy on Pyongyang. Trump doesn’t like to be reminded of his failures – “I take no responsibility” – and was livid when former national security advisor John Bolton ridiculed the exchanges. When Bolton reminded Trump that he had said the two leaders “fell in love” and exchanged “love letters,” the thin-skinned president called his former aide “wacko” and “a jerk.”
Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, said this week that his former boss will “do anything and everything” to win reelection and “even go so far as to start a war” to remain in office. If Trump takes that route, his war won’t be fought on foreign soil, but in American cities.
Another possible October surprise could be dispatching massive numbers of federal troops to cities with Democratic leadership. He is unfazed by unrest in Republican-led cities like Miami, Tulsa, Jacksonville or Fort Worth, because his law and order campaign is about scaring white suburbanites that Democrats want to move poor people of color into their neighborhoods and only he can stop them.
In reality, most cities are run by Democrats because Republicans can’t get elected with their approach on fundamental issues like race, education, poverty, social services and housing.
For months, Trump has been threatening to send massive numbers of federal forces “to protect the rights of law-abiding Americans, including your Second Amendment rights.” The latter is to reiterate his false claim that “Democrats want to take away your guns.”
These are only some of the possible surprises Trump may be planning as he frantically searches to divert voter attention from his own ineptitude and massive corruption.
Washington Post columnist Max Boot said it well: “A president capable of falsifying a weather map, extorting a foreign country, accusing a popular TV anchor of murder, maligning his own public heath advisers or locking children in cages is capable of anything.”