In the US presidential election of 1980, the Reagan-Bush campaign team were always afraid of what was termed “an October surprise”. This was where, just before polling on the first Tuesday in November, President Carter would suddenly announce that he had successfully secured the release of the hostages being held in the US embassy in Tehran. Such was the terror of the effect that would have on the president’s reelection chances that rumours abounded for years later that the campaign had dispatched future CIA director William Casey to Paris to secretly negotiate with the Ayatollah’s regime. Whilst this was never proven, it is a fact that the Reagan administration did secretly supply weapons components to the Tehran regime.
The parallels to the 2012 campaign are not that similar, save for one thing: the power of events far away from the US to affect the election itself. President Obama has a tricky balancing act to perform here. On the one hand, he can’t panic as Governor Romney seems to have, issuing threats and pointing fingers before facts are known.
But at the same time the people of the United States will not tolerate a president who allows them to be humiliated. On top of that, it is a poor call if it is true that White House people attempted to pressurise Youtube to remove the offending film which has set off so much violence and cost the lives of US diplomats. The right of any religious grouping to take offence does not trump the western right to free expression, and President Obama would do well to realise that many of his staunchest liberal supporters feel that way. If there is one abiding value that has shaped democratic western policy since 1939, it is that those who attempt to deprive us of our human rights through violence need to realise that they will be met with steel, for those rights are non-negotiable, whether you believe they were god-given or not.