The Political Impact of Gustav …

Posted in Uncategorized by groffellison on September 1, 2008

With Gustav threatening the Gulf Coast, much is being said of this storm’s “cosmic irony” (as XM POTUS ’08 correspondent Joe Mathieu put it) in comparison to Bush Administration response to Hurricane Katrina only 3 years ago.  Hence, as much as we won’t like it, the analysis of the storm is as political as it is meteorological.  You can’t help but ponder on the split screen image of the RNC preparation in St. Paul on one side and the Gustav tracking map on the other.

Clearly, the Administration will make certain they get it right this time around.  Already, the evacuation efforts are massive and the political disclaimers are heavy; New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin (D) is already telling folks that there “are no shelters of last resort” like last time. Translated: you won’t have me in a political sling this time around because you decided to stick around and ride it out.  Louisiana politicians, partnering with federal officials, while making every effort to appear confident and competent, are also absolving themselves of any responsibility for tragic deaths.

So: is Gustav really the dreaded death-knell of the RNC?

The first response is who cares.  Because, while we’re chatting about the political implications, somebody forgot about that destitute poverty in the Gulf Coast region, particularly in New Orleans, which basically made Katrina much more destructive than it should have been.  There is lots of talk about how the Republicans will manage through it, but little talk – we feel – about how NOLA residents will manage and whether they’ll have anything when they get back.  So, we see lots of photo-ops about McCain/Palin.  Few photo ops of temporarily displaced NOLA residents. While folks are banging Former DNC Chairman Don Fowler for cracking jokes about the perceived political opportunities brought on by acts of God, media pundits are still compelled to discuss how acts of God are twisting up a political convention.  So, who’s the hypocrite?

Which is why it’s probably smart that the Obama camp is remaining quiet about all this, if you’ve noticed.  Republicans should be wary: making an all out effort to look non-political during their convention out of respect to the soon-to-be victims of Gustav could actually make them look all the more political.  Any way you spin it, they’re still engineering a political response in an attempt to look less political.  Why not chill, go on as planned, and take care of convention business – make certain everyone there respects the situation in the Gulf Region.  But, going all out to scale back the convention can potentially look fake.  McCain is acting a bit presumptuous with the television briefings and the sudden trips to the disaster zone – and he’s not even President, yet.  His handlers are blowing up his political spot; the smart move is to just sit back, let Gustav hit and make certain he encourages a sincere, national response in the aftermath.


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  1. Marque said, on September 1, 2008 at 2:59 am

    Solid analysis of the complexities involved here. I have to wonder, though – as a candidate, can you really do too much to help people in a disaster zone? So long as you’re actually performing relief work or actually raising money to help the victims – rather than just telling people to do so – I think you insulate yourself from criticism. You risk attack if you talk from a distance or do just enough for the photo op, but if you are in the trenches, I think people appreciate it.

    Of course, then there’s the revolutionary approach:

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