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September 1, 2008
Hurricane Gustav: Real
World Sees Tragedy, Republicans See Opportunity
The last time a major hurricane hit the New Orleans area,
John McCain celebrated his birthday by eating cake with the president.
George W. Bush would go on to play guitar while the city’s Ninth Ward
filled with water. John McCain would eventually go on to capture his
party’s nomination for president.
That nomination will
officially come to fruition this week, as the latest major tropical
storm is expected to hit the Gulf Coast, with New Orleans having the
very distinct possibility of being at the center of where it hits land.
A people living in a
different world, where important things were important, would see this
as a poetic reminder of how badly the current presidential
administration has screwed things up, and they’d start asking how his
party’s nominee to succeed him would do things differently. That would
be especially the case with the record not obviously answering that
But, we don’t live in
that world, and here the trivial is important and the important is mined
for its potential to provide advantage.
Although there is no
concrete word how Hurricane Gustav might impact the Republican National
Convention, the McCain campaign is looking to it as a potential gold
mine. Sources from within the campaign said that they hoped to get their
guy on the ground as soon as possible after landfall, no doubt in hopes
of positive press coverage making him look downright presidential.
McCain and his running
mate, Sarah Palin, visited the region Sunday to check up on how people
were preparing for the storm.
There was also talk of
transforming the convention from a purely political event to a
politically-tinged relief telethon, presumably for the Red Cross.
That seems like crass
politicization, but it’s just a sign that a John McCain Administration
will not be very much different than a George W. Bush Administration.
Everything will be subject to mining for political advantage.
The last example of that
was the selection of Palin as McCain’s vice-presidential running mate.
The McCain campaign traded its most effective weapon – Obama’s general
lack of experience – for a calculated attempt to bring into the fold the
Far Right and also any former supporters of Hillary Clinton still
feeling disenfranchised by their pick’s inability to win the Democratic
Forget the nonsense about
Palin’s executive experience. If the bar is set that low, then you may
as well argue that regional managers for retail chains possess the
proper credentials to be president. Her choice was made for the sake of
bringing votes to the table, and not because the campaign wishes to make
an argument that it possesses the necessary credentials, experience and
vision to lead the nation.
It’s this kind of
selection, which turns the McCain campaign narrative on its head, that
should raise questions about whether the GOP actually has any standards
that aren’t subject to political gain.
The answer to that could
be made more obvious this week, after Hurricane Gustav roars ashore.
An investigation by a
television station found that, since 2006, contractors working for FEMA
have repaired large portions of floodwalls with – rather than materials
designed for the job of holding back flood water – newspaper. Two years
later, nothing has been done to replace it, and it is bug-eaten and has
The floodwalls and levees
of New Orleans have been a running failure for decades, something for
with both political parties are guilty. The fact that little has been
done to change anything in three years is a crime against the city of
New Orleans and the rest of the Gulf Coast, much of which remains in
With the nation’s eyes on
St. Paul and the Gulf Coast this week, the question that should cross
our minds is why the GOP is looking at a tragedy in which it shares a
great deal of complicity in making things worse as something of an
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