Feature

McCain and the politics of Gustav

Could the candidate's reaction to the storm affect the presidential race?

“Gustav is now the third name on John McCain’s ticket,” said John Dickerson in Slate. The hurricane hitting the Gulf Coast has thrust McCain “into a quasi-presidential role of reacting to the weather on the public stage.” It may be crass to talk of the politics of a natural disaster, but taking the bold step of scaling back the Republican convention certainly burnishes McCain’s image as a “crisis manager.”

The storm also “removes the Bush problem,” said Nate Silter in The New Republic’s The Plank blog. President Bush canceled his appearance at the convention as the storm headed toward Louisiana near the third anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. And “the further Mr. 30% is from St. Paul, the better off the Republicans will be.”

The damage done by Katrina, and by Bush’s response to it, still give McCain a lot to overcome this week, said Rich Lowry in the New York Post. But he blew an opportunity by “scrapping everything but the formalities” for the convention’s opening on Monday. McCain could have avoided "festiveness" by canceling the parties, and used the day’s speeches as “a stirring call for national unity and purpose.”

Republican plans to turn the convention into a “service event” that could resemble a “telethon” for the victims is a good idea, said Paul Krugman in The New York Times. But calling on ordinary Americans to pitch in isn‘t enough, and McCain doesn’t seem to grasp that any better than Bush does. “What we really need is a government that works, because it’s run by people who understand that sometimes government is the solution, after all.”

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