The specter of Gustav also set off a round of “a-political politics.” McCain traveled to Mississippi to be briefed on preparations and explained:
“I pledge that tomorrow night, and if necessary throughout our convention, we will act as Americans and not as Republicans because America needs us now.”
That lovely sentiment, of course, meshed perfectly with his “putting America first” message. And when Barack Obama continued to campaign with his usual jibes at McCain, the McCain camp shot back:
“So he attacks us while there’s a hurricane going on and John McCain suspends his convention basically. What bigger contrast can you have about putting your country first?”
The politics of appearing non-political were clearly in full swing.
The next update on Convention scheduling is set for mid-day on Monday. But the mood here remains sanguine. So long as McCain continues to keep pace with Obama and Sarah Palin dominates the news no one seems terribly concerned that precious time is being lost.
But perils do remain. The mere presence of a big hurricane story revives memories of the calamitous Katrina response, perhaps the trigger for the swift slide in George Bush’s public approval. The potential for other failures and pictures of suffering flood victims looms large. As with everything in politics, the true impact depends on execution — how well the Republican president and Republican governors of the affected states respond and how deftly McCain maintains the balance between concern for his fellow citizens and the necessary business of rallying his supporters and making the case for his own election.
In a sense, the intervention of natural forces beyond the control of mere politicians seems somehow appropriate in a presidential election where no one predicted much of anything correctly and the improbable happened again and again. McCain was politically done? Not quite. Hillary Clinton was invincible? Not really. Then Barack Obama had sewed it up? Well, not so fast. Perhaps this is simply not meant to be a paint-by-the-numbers election.
Moreover, the collective shrug which greeted the delay suggests that Conventions as currently constituted leave much to be desired and have outlived their usefulness. If we can lose a day and not even miss it, can they be largely dispensed with? It seems at the very least everyone involved is coming to the conclusion that less is more.
Here in Minneapolis hopes and prayers –that the storm won’t be as severe and that it won’t be a replay of the Katrina debacle — are directed to the Gulf. Soon enough there will be time for politics. And for McCain, riding out the storm is nothing new.