The other impact of Gustav

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The Other Impact of Gustav
By Jeff Fecke, August 31, 2008 • While it pales in comparison to the potential damage it could do to Louisiana, Gustav has already done serious damage to the Republican National Convention. Mindful that having a big party in St. Paul probably comes off negatively if compared to a newly demolished New Orleans — especially given that it will naturally call to mind Hurricane Katrina, and the awesome job the GOP did with that disaster — the GOP is already making plans to curtail their convention:

Jeff Fecke is a freelance writer who lives in Eagan, Minnesota.In addition to his own blog, Blog of the Moderate Left, he also contributes to Alas, a Blog, Minnesota Campaign Report, and AlterNet. Fecke has appeared as a guest on the “Today” show, the Alan Colmes radio show, and the Mark Heaney Show. Fecke is divorced, and the father of one really terrific daughter. His debut novel, The Valkyrie’s Tale, will available for sale in September.

President Bush is unlikely to make it to the Republican National Convention, and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) may deliver his acceptance speech via satellite because of the historically huge hurricane threatening New Orleans, top officials said.

[…]

Officials insisted that the convention, scheduled to open here on Monday, will go on — albeit in a more limited and sedate form — even if Hurricane Gustav stays on its projected path. New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin ordered a mandatory evacuation beginning at 8 a.m. Sunday after federal officials said Gustav could grow to a catastrophic Category 5 and hit Monday afternoon somewhere between eastern Texas and western Mississippi.

McCain made plans to travel to a threatened area of the Gulf Coast on Sunday, accompanied by his wife, Cindy, and running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. They planned to meet Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour (R) in Jackson, Miss., aides said.

McCain was scheduled to deliver his acceptance speech Thursday but now may do so from the devastation zone if the storm hits the U.S. coast with the ferocity feared by forecasters.

Actually, the first part is a bonus for the GOP — they didn’t want Bush there anyhow, and if Gustav gets him and Cheney out of town, so much the better. And the convention can’t be cancelled at this point, so scaling it back is about all they can do.

The McCain speech thing, however, is problematic. Nice as it is that McCain would be speaking to us from the wreck of Houma, it’s not going to have the emotional wallop that a true convention speech would have, and while some great communicators could pull it off, McCain has shown little evidence that he’s a great communicator. Additionally, the fact is that a McCain acceptance speech from the disaster area while recovery efforts are underway not only could, but would be an unneeded distraction from those efforts. Louisiana didn’t need George W. Bush giving a speech after Katrina, they needed food. Water. Someone with a boat. Bush didn’t pay enough attention, but nothing would have been gained by Bush grandstanding, unless it led to him actually asking his staff to do something — anything — about what was going on. A senator, even a fairly well-known one like McCain, actually can do far less than Bush. It’s good that he’s going — Obama and Biden should too, and I assume they will — but if so, he needs to make sure that he’s helping, not hindering, those efforts.

Similarly, while it’s nice that McCain wants to help out, it’s a bit disingenuous to suggest that him greeting the country from a disaster area is a bold, decisive move. Indeed, he’d be better served to go back to St. Paul and give a toned-down speech. Minneapolis isn’t going to be affected by the hurricane. And Louisiana is, all too much.

Ultimately, the biggest problem for the RNC is that the hurricane’s coming at all. Needless to say, a Cat 4 hurricane striking the Gulf Coast is more important than what Sen. Whatshisname, R-Whatever, had to say about Barack Obama liking arugula. McCain and Palin’s speeches will get some coverage, but not nearly that of Obama; quite frankly, no matter what the GOP does, their convention is doomed to at least partial obscurity, unless God decides to help His party and magically whisk Gustav away. Good luck with that.

If I believed in divine retribution, I’d have a hard time not pointing to Gustav as punishment for the GOP’s failures in 2005. But then, I’d step back and realize that God could do better by sending some precision lightning bolts, rather than hurting the people of New Orleans again. No, there’s nothing just or divine about Gustav, and the people it will hurt more than anything are the people of New Orleans and Louisiana and the rest of the Gulf Coast, people who have been hurt too badly already. That the RNC will deal with the fallout is cold comfort indeed. But the fallout will be disastrous for the RNC; at best, their convention will be toned down, somber, and quieter. At worst, it will be a debacle. It couldn’t have happened to a more deserving bunch.