Donald Trump and the October surprise
Former President Donald Trump arrives at a campaign rally on Saturday, April 2, 2022, near Washington Township, Michigan. - Scott Olson/Getty Images North America/TNS
Donald Trump’s hush-money payment to adult film actress Stormy Daniels on the eve of the 2016 election followed a “sordid tradition of suppressing October surprises,” the New York Times observed today in a “Politico Memo” story.

Trump’s payment of $130,000 to Daniels to silence her allegations of an affair with him could become the first such scandal to result in an indictment, the Times noted. But it does have precedent in one respect: “It can trace its lineage to skullduggery in 1968 and 1980,” the paper reports.

"The scandal that has ensnared Donald J. Trump, the paying of hush money to a pornographic film star in 2016, is in a rare class: an attempt not to bring to light an election-altering event, but to suppress one,” the Times noted. “The payoff to Stormy Daniels that has a Manhattan grand jury weighing criminal charges against Mr. Trump can trace its lineage to at least two other episodes foiling an October surprise.

“The first was in 1968, when aides to Richard M. Nixon pressed the South Vietnamese government to thwart peace talks in the closing days of that election. The second was in 1980. Fresh revelations have emerged that allies of Ronald Reagan may well have labored to delay the release of American hostages from Iran until after the defeat of Jimmy Carter.”

Those situations are distinct from Trump’s hush-money scandal because “the chicaneries of 1968 and 1980 were left to historians and partisans to sort out and debate decades later, " the report noted. The allegations about the Nixon and Reagan campaigns have only recently surfaced.

The charges against Trump “may seem trivial when compared to the prior efforts to fend off a history-altering October surprise,” the Times said.

“This month, a former lieutenant governor of Texas came forward to say that he accompanied a Reagan ally to the Middle East to try to delay the release of American hostages from Iran until after the 1980 election. And notes discovered in 2016 appeared to confirm that senior aides to Mr. Nixon worked through back channels in 1968 to hinder the commencement of peace talks to end the war in Vietnam — and secure Mr. Nixon’s victory over Hubert H. Humphrey.

“Hold on,” Anna Chennault, Mr. Nixon’s emissary to the South Vietnamese, told Saigon government officials, as she pressed them to boycott the Paris peace talks. “We are gonna win.”