GOP to Delay Convention Because of Gustav?

Gustav is coming, and the Republicans are talking about postponing their convention and also getting Bush off the stage. The former is a stupid idea, as this convention is the life blood of Minneapolis and St. Paul. The latter, getting Bush off the stage to minimize memories of GOP incompetence in handling Katrina, is a good idea for them.

Commentary By: Steven Reynolds

That’s the report I’ve been hearing. The Republicans are thinking of delaying their convention because of the seriousness of the threat Hurricane Gustav poses as it barrels down on their convention city, Minneapolis. As we know, Minneapolis is particularly vulnerable to Hurricanes, as it sits right there on the Mississippi River. But wait, it is also well over a thousand miles from where meteorologists are predicting landfall. So, what’s the reason for this threatened postponement, anyway? Here’s how the Washington Post describes the issue as it stands, but of course they don’t get it right because they are too timid to call it like it is.

Republican officials said yesterday that they are considering delaying the start of the GOP convention in Minneapolis-St. Paul because of Tropical Storm Gustav, which is on track to hit the Gulf Coast, and possibly New Orleans, as a full-force hurricane early next week.

The threat is serious enough that White House officials are also debating whether President Bush should cancel his scheduled convention appearance on Monday, the first day of the convention, according to administration officials and others familiar with the discussion.

For Bush and Republican presidential candidate John McCain, Gustav threatens to provide an untimely reminder of Hurricane Katrina. A new major storm along the Gulf Coast would renew memories of one of the low points of the Bush administration, while pulling public attention away from McCain’s formal coronation as the GOP presidential nominee.

Senior Republicans said images of political celebration in the Twin Cities while thousands of Americans flee a hurricane could be dubious.

Let’s leave aside the usage of the word “dubious” here by those members of the press at the Washington Post. Why would the Republicans consider postponing one of the largest conventions in America and putting out all the caterers, hotels, restaurants, all the economic impact to the city of Minneapolis? Why would the Republican Party stir up economic problems? Well, they say they are being sensitive, though surely they knew that this week Katrina would be memorialized by the survivors, and they arranged their convention for this week anyway. Besides, Republican comments back when Katrina happened were far from sensitive. I remember comments about lawlessness, lack of morals and the like. Those comments were absolutely racist, in no uncertain terms, and you still hear them on occasion from the Limbaughs and Glenn Becks of the world. Only now do we get an attempt at “sensitivity” on the part of the GOP. Surely the Republican Party is working from embarrassment, from the notion that they’ve got to keep their people from declaring Gustav a plague brought by God, as Pat Robertson so infamously did with Katrina, a deserved punishment for sinners, and the like. They’re simply afraid of bad public relations, not necessarily concerned with helping folks prepare for Gustav.

What are the Republicans going to do once they postpone the Convention? Are they all going to rush to New Orleans and load up the sandbags? I sincerely doubt it. Is John McCain going to act the hero and work to save the city, or succor the injured and homeless after the disaster? I’ll bet he tries, and I’ll bet Bush’s government gives him every photo-opportunity to accomplish such a goal. It will be a sham, of course. You see, Bobby Jindal and Mayor Nagin and Michael Chertoff seem to be prepared this time, and it’s a good thing they learned from the massive incompetencies that were the Bush response to Katrina. (Bush and McCain response?) And I’ve got faith in the American people that they will see through the sham.

Gustav poses severe problems for the Republicans. That doesn’t bother me a bit. What they should do, in all seriousness, assuming Gustav actually does some damage, is to mention it during their convention, but not excessively. They should talk about faith-based and other nonprofit disaster relief agencies and praise their role. They should note the ways John McCain helped during Katrina, too, and should confront head on the Marie Antoinette issue – the picture of McCain and Bush with the cake. What they will do? They’ll call for additional prayers in the Convention Hall, and they’ll mention Gustav in nearly every speech. A few delegates will go off the reservation and will talk of Katrina and the crime and the horrid images from when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, and they will do so with their feet in their mouths. Too many people touching on that message and someone is going to screw up. It will happen, no doubt about it.

This is, truly, a no-win situation for the Republicans, but they should not postpone, and they should not pretend they are thinking of it. That would be fiscally irresponsible, and irresponsible to thousands of conventioneers who are ordinary Republicans who can’t easily disrupt their lives. Postponing would be showing a false type of concern, in my view. They should admit that the response to Katrina was piss poor, and then note how well the resonse to Gustav is going under the admirable leadership of Bobby Jindal. They should do so in the time slot reserved for Jindal’s speech, showing, then, Republicans responding to crisis instead of responding to politics. In short, they should try to change their image.

Here’s my prediction. Hurricane Gustav is going to go down in history as the first Hurricane anywhere ever to strike two cities one thousand miles apart in one day. The strike it makes against New Orleans will be lesser than the strike it makes against the GOP in Minneapolis, whether they are postponed or not. The GOP have a natural disaster on their hands, and they will make a mistake handling it, but the mistake will not likely harm their brand in one sense – they pretend to be the party of efficient government, you know. It will reinforce what has become the Republican brand, that they will do anything at all to win an election, even to the point of exploiting people being evacuated from a natural disaster. Someone call Brownie. He probably learned a lesson from Katrina. I’m pretty sure the Republicans have not as they focus on public relations over all other things.

Friday, August 29th, 2008 by Steven Reynolds |

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