Convention Cut Back

Earlier today, John McCain directed that the Republican National Convention be scaled back because of Hurricane Gustav. Tomorrow’s program has been cut from seven to two and a half hours, with only “essential business” being conducted. Neither President Bush nor Vice-President Cheney will address the convention, as had been planned. Further, McCain announced that an airplane has been chartered to fly Gulf State delegates back to their home states so that they can…I’m not sure what, exactly. Tote sandbags, maybe.

The RNC issued a press release that says, in part:

At the direction of Sen. John McCain, the 2008 Republican National Convention announced substantial changes to the convention’s program and actions being taken to help with Hurricane Gustav relief efforts. On Monday, all program activities beyond the official business that must be conducted in accordance with party rules will be cancelled. Among the other actions announced today are the formation of the Affected States Working Group, the establishment of an Affected States Information Center, and the chartering of a DC-9 to transport affected delegates.

Rick Davis, campaign manager for McCain 2008, announced that the upcoming Republican National Nominating Convention is making serious revisions to the convention program and surrounding activities. Davis said, “We are deeply concerned about the safety and welfare of the residents of the Gulf State region. Our top priority is to assist those who will be affected by Hurricane Gustav. This is not a time for politics or celebration; it is a time for us to come together as Americans and assist the residents of the Gulf States.”

You’ll be reassured to know that the Republican candidates will, at some point, be nominated:

Davis concluded: “At some point between Monday and Thursday evening, we will convene once again to complete the activities needed to qualify Senator McCain and Governor Palin for the ballot in all 50 states. Beyond that, all we can say is that we will monitor what is happening and make decisions about other convention business as details become available.”

So those who remain in St. Paul apparently will spend much of their time wringing their hands about Hurricane Gustav. Here’s an idea: instead of the scheduled convention, the Republicans could turn the whole affair into a telethon in which delegates would man telephones and take contributions from around the country to aid hurricane victims.

This strikes me as one more step in the seemingly unstoppable Oprahization of American politics. There is no earthly connection between the RNC and Hurricane Gustav. Few delegates have anything to do with hurricane preparedness or response. The handful who do–Bobby Jindal, for example–can return to, or remain in, their home states. The rest ought to go about their business.

The RNC’s press release weirdly seems to presume that voters may be outraged that the convention is going forward at all. It explains why–much as we might like to cancel the convention entirely–we just can’t:

The convention program has been altered in response to the situation developing in the Gulf States region. However, the convention will still take place. According to party rules, it is necessary for the convention to proceed in order to ensure that the party is able to place its candidates’ names on the ballot in November.

On November 9, 2007, pursuant to the rules adopted at the 2004 National Republican Convention, the party issued the call for its convention. The call requires that the convention meet on Sept. 1, 2008. The session must be convened no earlier than 9 a.m. and no later than 7 p.m. Under the current party rules, this is the only method by which the party may select a candidate for President and Vice President.

This preemptive hurricane hysteria reflects, of course, the unfair beating the Bush administration took over Hurricane Katrina. Liberal reporters were worried about the ascendancy of the Republican Party, as President Bush had been elected the preceding November with more votes than had ever been cast for a Presidential candidate. As a result, reporters and editors were not above misleading and outright fabricated reports of events in New Orleans, as long as such reports could be twisted to reflect badly on the Bush administration.

When, in the following days and weeks, it developed that much of what television networks and newspapers had reported about Katrina was false, there was no investigation into the sources of this journalistic malpractice. Rather, the facts were quietly buried and the myth of Bush indifference lives on.

The Republicans would be much better served to proceed with their convention as scheduled, but devote some prime time to revisiting Katrina and rebutting the false claims that have circulated for the last three years.

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