You will note that the Opinion section of the newspaper is devoid of comment and revelation on Tuesday's election. We leave you to the crystal waters of cool reflection on your own as the moment to cast your secret ballot grows near.
The winners, no matter who they are, will confront and unleash surprises. Events in the tides of humanity remain relentless; human nature is often unattractive in the powerful. Sixty years ago, Gen. Dwight Eisenhower was elected president on the promise that he would "go to Korea." The United States had been at war there against communist forces for more than two years. By 1952, Evan Thomas writes in the recently published popular history "Ike's Bluff," as many as 1,500 Americans were dying each week in what felt like a stalemate.
Because Ike had led the Allies to victory in World War II, no one pressed him for details on what he'd do when he arrived in Korea. As a soldier, Ike had discovered that war is one surprise after another. Soviet dictator and mass murderer Josef Stalin, who'd permitted North Korea to start the war in 1950, died in March 1953, weeks after Ike took office.
Stalin's death and the high cost the war was imposing on China and North Korea opened the way for fruitful negotiations. Canny uncertainty over the new president's philosophy on the use of nuclear weapons to end the war also advanced the cause of peace. An agreement was reached six months into Eisenhower's administration.
When Stalin died, Eisenhower was disappointed to learn that intelligence officers, diplomats and others charged with thinking big thoughts had no serious notions of how to react. The romance of intelligence services frequently overshadows their history of blunders and puffery. Even Eisenhower had trouble keeping them in line.
President John F. Kennedy learned during the Bay of Pigs fiasco in Cuba a few months after taking office in 1961 that CIA claims should be closely examined before being adopted. JFK, according to his widow, wept in the White House private quarters after that failed invasion of Cuban unraveled.
Taylor Branch's trilogy on Martin Luther King and the civil rights movement reveals the complicated private relationship between King and the Kennedys. They were sympathetic to his goals but often acted to diminish him and permitted the FBI to torment King. Kennedy's segregationist appointments to the federal bench in the South impeded progress for years. Undoing their ugly work taxed the creativity of civil rights-supporting appellate court judges appointed by Ike.
Lyndon Johnson won one of the biggest landslides in presidential history in 1964. He'd spent his adulthood in politics and was a shrewd operator, though given to frightening mood swings and long outbreaks of self-pity. Some of his closest friends in politics advised him not to expand the commitment and intrigue in Vietnam that he'd inherited from his martyred predecessor. He dismissed their advice and listened to the generals who gave him one forecast: another 100,000 troops should bring victory. By 1968, Johnson was so unpopular that the Secret Service limited his public appearances to military bases.
Anti-communist stalwart Richard Nixon astonished the world by going to China and ending its isolation. He negotiated historic nuclear arms treaties with the Soviets. No one would have expected that when he eked out a victory over Hubert Humphrey in 1968. Nixon also presided over lawlessness from the Oval Office that still has the power to surprise as more records and tapes become public.
In 1976, Jimmy Carter used his born-again Christianity to defeat Gerald Ford, an Episcopalian who saw religion as faith, not a political weapon. Religion has refused to relinquish its noisy place in the public square for almost 40 years. The small-minded Georgia farmer, whose capacity for bitterness shows no sign of diminishing 32 years after voters defeated him, predicted in 1979 that the world was 10 years away from having no oil.
Enjoy those crystal waters of contemplation, a glass of Johnny Walker or the coin you flip to decide who will lead us to sunny uplands. Whoever wins, the power of chance and the influence of surprise need no place on the ballot. They retain a permanent place in our affairs.