Monday, September 01, 2008

Wasn't that a Mighty Storm?

Grandmere Mimi has been in exile from Hurricane Gustav, and my hope is whatever damage the storm does will not trouble her or her family. My prayers are for her and her family, too, but more on that in a moment. It is the sanctimony of the GOP over this natural disaster that may yet come a cropper.

The Slate article I linked to earlier was all about how Gustav was good news for the GOP because McCain turned it so much to his advantage. However, the analysis depended on a ghoulish expectation: a repeat of New Orleans v. Katrina, from 3 years ago. Not many people remember Hurricane Rita, which followed on the heels of Katrina, or if they do, they remember it for the traffic jam that extended from Houston to Dallas (about 250 miles), and not for the damage it wrought on Port Arthur in Texas, and Lake Charles in Louisiana, or in the rural areas of Louisiana between and around those two cities. No major city was drowned, so the news about Rita was quickly forgotten; even the sight of a major US city in full blown and pointless panic (Houston is not prone to the same kind of flooding which beset New Orleans) soon receded from memory.

This time, of course, instead of sharing a birthday cake with John McCain, Bush is on top of things: in Austin, Texas, nowhere near any projected path of the storm. (Apparently going even to Tyler, Texas, where many Louisiana residents have been relocated, was too close to the storm for the Fearless Leader). McCain got as close as Toledo, Ohio, after issuing these stirring words:

"I wanna thank all of my fellow Republicans as we take off our Republican hats and put on our American hats and we say, 'America, we're with you. America, we're going to care for these people in their time of need,' and we're gonna display it in every possible way as Americans always have and Americans always will."
The not-so-subtle implication that only Republicans are real Americans is not lost on anybody; nor is his visit to a battleground state, far from the threatened Gulf Coast.

Gimme a break.

But now there will be no stirring pictures from the damaged cities of the Gulf, because New Orleans was spared. This is excellent news, of course, but what of the smaller cities? Even that MSNBC article only names a few of them in the path. Will Anderson Cooper and Brian Williams be reporting for days on end from New Iberia or Lafayette or Cocodrie? Don't hold your breath. Weather predictions have indicated for weeks the storm will pass across Louisiana into East Texas, bringing great potential for damage and flooding. But there are no big cities there, so don't expect cable and network news to descend with worried faces and impertinent questions. Which only means those townspeople will be spared the full treatment as political symbols by GOP compassionate conservatism. Hooray that local and state governments learned their lesson about what government is supposed to do, and did it so well. Boo to the national politicians who still want to exploit any crisis, any situation, for political gain. No wonder so many Americans are so cynical about politics.

What now? Well, prayers for the afflicted are always appropriate, especially for anyone you know, more especially if those prayers spur you to do something besides look for pictures of disaster on your TeeVee. A little thankfulness that at least one convention will spend one less day inflicting politics as usual on the electorate is also in order. But this prediction?

Tuesday is also probably shot. His campaign has chartered a plane to send worried delegates back home. The vast roster of fundraisers in town has been put to work raising money for the relief effort. The party atmosphere has been redirected. The Distilled Spirits Council, aka the booze lobby, has turned its Monday party into a fundraiser for the Red Cross.
And this?

By taking bold public steps, he also burnishes his credentials as a crisis manager and distances himself from Bush.
I think it's clear McCain had as much to do with managing the crisis of Gustav as he did with the release of hostages in Colombia. If Tuesday is "shot" for the GOP Convention, I imagine most of us will mourn it just as we did the news that President Bush and Vice President Cheney wouldn't be speaking after all.

It really is an ill wind that blows nobody some good.

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