Summer’s Dog Days: Elephant Time – Part 1
Two weeks ago, Barack Obama wowed 'em in Denver. Last week, John McCain tip-toed across the balance beam of public opinion, beginning the week with a compassionate whisper and ending it with a partisan roar.
The GOP Twin Cities convention was intended to be a week-long celebration of all things conservative, starting off with a rousing welcome for a beleaguered incumbent president.
To hear it told by the Democrats assembled in Denver, mass murderer Charles Manson had more compassion and better judgment than 43rd President George Walker Bush. As the final days of his two-term presidency come to a close, President Bush had to be looking forward to standing in front of 18,000 adoring Republican convention delegates. It might be the only place in the country where he could count on that kind of welcome.
It wasn't meant to be. Hurricane Gustav was full of wind, rain, and just enough bluster to cause the McCain campaign to essentially suspend all but the most mundane convention details. All of Monday's speakers, including President Bush and Vice President Dick Chaney, were released from the obligation to address the convention.
President Bush opted instead to head south, to oversee operations in the FEMA Center in Austin, TX. That's where we want him, standing in the middle of an emergency operations center, with monitors displaying storm tracks and radio operators communicating with first-responders throughout the affected areas.
There are two ways to view the impact of Hurricane Gustav. One, the optimistic view, holds that a well-coordinated plan in advance of the storm and well-directed response in the aftermath will inure to the benefit of the GOP. With the organized and disciplined approach of Homeland Security Chief Michael Chertoff and FEMA Director David Paulison, President Bush can help us forget the sloppiness, ineptitude, and uncoordinated actions of the response to Hurricane Katrina. Unlike his predecessor, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal seems like a super hero, in command of the facts and the effort.
If John McCain needed a thematic element for his truncated convention, then the work being done in the northern Gulf might be a good example. Republicans care, they learn from their mistakes, and with John McCain's military discipline, will be even more diligent in the future.
There is another view. Two prominent progressives, one of them a Democratic Party leader, tossed out that opinion over the weekend. South Carolina Congressman and former Democratic National Committee Chairman Don Fowler was captured on amateur video suggesting that God must have it in for the GOP by sending another major hurricane into the Gulf of Mexico during convention week.
Filmmaker, activist and idiot-savant Michael Moore was even more specific and out front with his caustic observation. He celebrated the Creator's sense of humor by disrupting the GOP Convention.
Decent people everywhere ought to measure the men who made those statements, and act accordingly. Maybe a lot of other people feel the same way, the difference is that other people have more self-control and keep that kind of rhetoric inside their fevered brain.
The GOP convention-goers were treated to the perfect antidote to Michael Moore as a kick-off to the week-long meeting to nominate their presidential candidate. First Lady Laura Bush, one of the most popular White House residents in years, gave the first official speech. Instead of a red meat political talk, Mrs. Bush concentrated instead on the impacts of Hurricane Gustav and the role Americans (and especially convention attendees) might play to help those affected.
In place of the normal drinking, carousing and non-stop celebrating that the Democrats enjoyed, Republican convention-goers focused instead on raising money and packing up comfort packages to send to Louisiana. Department store giant Target sent truckloads of goodies to St. Paul that GOP delegates then repacked into goodie bags.
In one of the main convention hotels, a phone bank was set up to allow Republicans to start making calls back to their home states to raise money for victims of Gulf flooding. On the first full day last Monday, over $1.2 million was raised. By Tuesday, that number had jumped to well over $10 million dollars. Those Republicans surely know a thing or two about raising money.
At the same time up in Michigan, Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, surrounded by the heads of organized labor, sang the chorus to Aretha Franklin's soul hit Chain of Fools, implying that was the definition of the Bush/McCain gathering in the Twin Cities.
On one hand, a group of Republicans conducted focused fundraising and relief packaging. On the other, the Democratic candidate for president demonstrated childish behavior by belittling his opponent surrounded by friendly thugs and crooks. Talk about fiddling while Rome burns!
Tomorrow, in Part 2, there’s more from the convention!