American Hats

There is an argument to be made that the cancellation of President Bush’s speech, and reduction of the convention to only the minimal elements yesterday can be seen as a positive to McCain’s campaign. McCain no longer has to worry about yet another connection to the Bush Administration, and in prime time no less. However, I’m not one to make that argument, I’ll leave that to NBC’s Mark Murray. Instead I pose that Hurricane Gustav doesn’t help McCain by hiding President Bush, but rather allows McCain and the GOP an opportunity to show that they can lead America, that they have learned from mistakes of the past and that they offer more than just more of the same.

Part of experience is making mistakes, and then learning from those mistakes. The biggest failure of President Bush’s second term was Hurricane Katrina. Yes, government at all levels failed, but the buck stops with the President, and his administration took most of the blame. Contrast the events of Katrina to now. Government was ready at all levels, the warning was timely, New Orleans was evacuated properly and FEMA and the National Guard are providing the assistance that is needed. If anything the reaction was almost overkill, but it’s better to be extra cautious than not prepared at all. Mistakes were made in the past, but the same mistakes are not being made today.

John McCain doesn’t gain from the cancellation of President Bush’s speech at the Republican National Convention. John McCain gains by President Bush acting as a President and leader while visiting the Gulf region of Texas in preparation for the storm. John McCain gains from President Bush learning from past mistakes.

John McCain was given the opportunity to visit the Gulf region in Mississippi at the behest of Governor Haley Barbour. While Senator Obama sat on a temporarily suspended campaign trail worrying about getting in the way, John McCain was on the ground boosting moral, taking in the situation, showing leadership and acting Presidential. It is questionable that his involvement helped, but the impression was made, John McCain was there, he cared, he was ready to lead.

The GOP may have lost a day of their convention, a day of speeches and words, but they gained a day of action and resolve. While the Democratic Convention was four days of extravagance and partisanship, the Republican Convention quickly and quietly went about the necessary proceedings and showed an outward message of unity, giving aid and standing strong in the face of potential disaster. They lost a day of attacking Senator Obama, but gained a day of showing that when emergency strikes, the Republicans are ready and willing.

Laura Bush addressed the delegates at the convention asking for aid and help in the relief efforts. Partisanship was put aside, at least temporarily. Cindy McCain joined the First Lady on the stage and spoke, “This is a time when we take off our Republican hats and put on our American hats.”

Hurricane Gustav may have dampened the festivities of the Convention, but it provided the opportunity for John McCain and his fellow Republicans to show America that they have learned from the mistakes of that past and that they are ready to lead America now and in the future. That opportunity was worth more than a thousand speeches or a month of conventions.