UPDATED: Bush/Gas conspiracy?
The ubiquitous "October Surprise" -- that last minute trick, devised to sway an election, like the discovery of a highly sought after enemy or dirt on an opponent -- has cemented itself in our political consciousness to such an extent that whether it occurs or not, whether it's coincidence or not, is hardly important.
In boxing, when a fighter attempts to woo the judges at the close of a tight round it's called "stealing the round," and in politics it's called campaigning. Maybe it's dirtier now or maybe it's just been named.
In any case, the latest theory is that the Bush administration is tinkering with gas prices to assuage public anger. According to Slate, the public believes in this:
"[there is] speculation about conspiracies led by the Bush administration, and those close to it, to engineer a sharp fall in the prices of oil and gas during campaign season. A big chunk of the American public suspects funny business. A USA Today poll from September found that 42 percent of Americans believed the administration deliberately manipulated gas prices ahead of the elections."According to Slate, Woodward revealed that the Saudis helped Bush in 2004, by upping their production (thus sending prices downward), while in 2006, the U.S. is holding off on huge reserve purchases, reducing demand, and thus the price.
On top of that, complexities aside, Goldman Sachs essentially made it less appealing to purchase gas stock for the period that coincides perfectly with the runup to the midterm elections. Traders sold gas contracts, and the price fell accordingly.
On the other hand, Slate notes, and I'm inclined to agree, that the world is simply not so simply manipulable. That is, there are so many factors responsible for something so complex and far-reaching as the global marketplace, that Bush, the Saudis and Goldman Sachs aren't able to game it quite so cleanly.
Plus, I'm suspicious of any conspiracy that fits so neatly into existing conspiracies. Bush, the Arabs and the Jew financiers gaming the political system with money and oil? Feh.
UPDATE: This chart, highlighting the fall of gas prices at election time, comes courtesy of Micah Sifry: