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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 question.


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 nomination.


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 crumbled away.


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 ruin.


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 opportunity.


© 2008 North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.


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