The October Surprise wasn't exactly what anyone expected. At least by those who think in simplistic partisan ways.
Like a Halloween goblin, Osama bin Laden flew into the US presidential campaign on Friday in a videotaped speech that, for a brief moment, united President Bush and John Kerry. They both vowed to hunt down the Al Qaeda leader, trying not to politicize this threatening intrusion.
Despite the ominous tone of the videotape, it served a useful reminder that no matter who wins on Nov. 2, Americans must maintain a certain unity against Al Qaeda under the next president, even if they disagree over the past and future course in Iraq.
Unity will be difficult to come by. The visceral politics of this campaign, combined with election litigation over the balloting, may not be easy to put aside. Mr. Bush is faulted for not capturing bin Laden, but so far he's kept Al Qaeda from fulfilling a threat to attack the US again. Mr. Kerry comes with a mixed record on security, but might persuade more nations to fight terrorists better. And each promises to finish the job in Iraq.
Seemingly endless presidential campaigns must now be shortened to give future presidents greater capacity to lead the war on terror. Security bills must pass Congress; political divisions between security agencies must be overcome; and spies and soldiers must remain motivated. A bipartisan foreign policy must once again be supported.
Whatever unity has been forged among Americans post-9/11 appears to have put bin Laden on the defensive. He even pleaded in the video that he does not "hate freedom."
And his attempt to divide Americans helps unite them. A "November surprise" could be that Americans reunite against terrorist intimidation.