No sooner did I land at the Minneapolis/St. Paul airport and I got the news: "the 2008 Republican National Convention announced substantial changes to the convention's program and actions being taken to help with Hurricane Gustav relief efforts."
"It just wouldn't be appropriate to have a festive occasion while a near tragedy or a terrible challenge is presented in the form of a natural disaster," McCain said in an interview taped Saturday with "Fox News Sunday." "So we're monitoring it from day to day, and I'm saying a few prayers, too."Almost three years to the day that Katrina swept through New Orleans and the rest of the Gulf Coast, John McCain and his team showed, 1.) They learned the lessons provided by the debacle that was Katrina; and, 2.) They are interested in showing who is in charge.At a time when the GOP and the country needs a Reaganesque leader, someone strong who rides into town wearing the white hat...ready to throw out the corrupt and provide a vision for better days...McCain is trying to do that very thing. Whether he will be successful or not remains to be seen. We've got what looks like several hurricanes on their way and 66 days of stormy campaigning to weather -- first.
But McCain's made a good start: being seen as taking control of a party that has seemed adrift by bringing on Sarah Palin (who successfully took on the dirty pols in Alaska) and by taking charge of the convention; by showing voters that he is willing to live up to his campaign's slogan -- "Country First" -- by possibly postponing or at least toning down his Big Moment; and by already working/communicating with leaders of Gulf Coast states (aka: "The Affected States Working Group") to better understand the ongoing situation and help out wherever possible.
It will be interesting to see how Team Obama deals with Gustav. I'm sure he and/or Joe Biden will have access to Homeland Security Sec. Michael Chertoff as well as any of the Gulf States' governors and such. But you've got to wonder who is going to pull more attention -- and votes -- through all this (even if both handle the situation correctly). Who will carry more weight, the guy who called off his Confirmation Party and is already working with groups with impressive sounding names like The Affected States Working Group, or the untested newcomer?
Extra: FOX's Bonney Knapp, who is covering the Obama campaign, got some interesting responses from the U.S. senator from Illinois --
"Yesterday Barack Obama told reporters that he would not go to the hurricane zone to avoid taking away resources needed to evacuate the region facing Gustav’s threat. 'I think you all are aware of now that we have a very big, uh, tail,' Obama said, referring to the large entourage of press, staff, Secret Service, and local law enforcement that creates the 'Obama bubble.' He continued, 'Sometimes we can be a distraction in these kinds of situations…I will do whatever is required that is useful, but right now the main thing that’s useful us letting everyone evacuate out there now.'
This morning John McCain traveled to Mississippi - with his own “tail,” while Obama campaigned in Ohio - far from Gustav’s destination.
When asked if he thought the trip was appropriate, Obama gave him the benefit of the doubt. “A big storm like this raises bipartisan concerns and I think for John to want to find out what is going on is fine. The thing that I always is concerned about in the middle of the storm is whether we are drawing resources away from folks on the ground, because the Secret Service and various security requirements sometimes it pulls police and fire and other departments away from concentrating on the job. I am assuming that where he went that wasn’t an issue and we are going to try to stay clear of the area until things have settled down and then we will probably try to figure out how we can be as helpful as possible,” Obama told reporters in Lima.