October Surprise: The First Stolen Election
Hostages to the Election
On November 4, 1979, in support of the Iranian revolution that had deposed the countrys monarchy nine months earlier, Iranian students occupied the U.S. embassy in Teheran and took hostages. For more than a yearincluding throughout the U.S. presidential election campaign between Democratic incumbent Jimmy Carter and Republican challenger Ronald Reaganthe hostages were held, garnering massive amounts of media attention in the U.S. and beyond. The fact that Carter was unable to gain their freedom seriously undermined his reelection bid. Iran finally released the hostages on January 20, 1981444 days after their captureless than an hour after Ronald Reagan was inaugurated as president.
The official word from the Reagan White House was that the timing was coincidental. But there is strong evidence that candidate Reagan sent secret emissaries to Iran to negotiate a deal whereby the hostages would be kept in Iranian hands through the electionensuring Carters defeatand released only after Reagans inaugurationguaranteeing a triumphant debut of his presidency.
What if those hostages could actually have gained their freedom months earlier? And if Jimmy Carter had been successful in his negotiations, what if hed been reelected to a second term? What if the Reagan-Bush team cut a secret deal with Iran to hold on to their American prisoners until after the November election? Would anybody call that treason?
Even at the time, as busy on the wrestling circuit as I was, I thoughtwhaaaat?! This stinks. It reeked of a behind-the-scenes deal. Heres the thing everybody forgets: Even though Reagan ended up swamping Carter in the election, as late as the middle of October Reagans own poll-taker had Carter ahead by two percentage points. If Carter had managed to free the hostages before the election, good chance hed have won. Instead, we had what Gary Sickboth Ford and Carters Middle East expert on the National Security Councilcalled a political coup in his book October Surprise.
[ Jesse Ventura's Take ]
Reagan's people had cut a deal with Iran to keep the hostages beyond the presidential election to ensure that President Carter's negotiations with Iran failed and that he lost to Reagan. Like the political assassinations earlier, this was a continuation of an ends-justify-the-means mentality that will ultimately destroy our democracy altogether if we allow this attitude to continue. Also, let's consider how our "friends" so quickly become our "enemies." Is it all about what suits certain people in power? Who's really benefiting from the overthrow of Saddam Hussein and the demonization of Iran?