September 1st, 2008
01:55 PM ET

Have Republicans Responded Well to Gustav?

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/09/01/art.mccain.gustav.jpg caption="Sen. John McCain helps pack Hurricane Gustav relief packages at the ISOH/Impact charitable organization's facility in Toledo, Ohio, Monday." width=292 height=320]

David Gergen | Bio
AC360° Contributor
CNN Senior Political Analyst

John McCain's decision to limit the opening day of the Republican convention has brought a flurry of comment from voters, once again showing how deeply divided the country remains.

His supporters proclaim that consistent with the theme of the convention, "Country First", McCain and the GOP have given up their opening night on television - a chance to bolster the McCain-Palin ticket and to bash Obama-Biden - as an act of respect for those in the path of Hurricane Gustav. Instead of raising money for the party, Republicans are also raising funds for storm victims. And in advance of the storm, McCain seemed very much in command again as he visited Mississippi and issued directives to the RNC - very much in contrast to the hands-off approach of George W. Bush during Katrina.

McCain's critics say this is all hogwash - that the Republicans are up to their cynical tricks, that they were glad to find an excuse for keeping Bush and Cheney away from their opening night, that they are engaged in acts of contrition in order to make up for the political disaster of Katrina three years ago, and that voters will see this is mostly a political ploy. As for putting "country first", say the critics, how can McCain argue that after selecting Sarah Palin as his running mate?

Let me say where I come down: while the arguments of the critics have rings of truth to them, I believe that McCain and the Republicans did the right thing with Gustav bearing down. It would have been inappropriate and insensitive to have had a festive opening to a political convention while so many Americans were in harm's way. It is also true that McCain himself does believe in promoting public service and has been consistent on this point. If Republicans gain some political leverage out of this - and they probably will - so be it: the test for each candidate is in part to show how well they adapt to changing circumstances. The Obama-Biden team adapted extremely well to the challenges of their convention, and now it is the Republicans' turn at bat.

That said, there are much bigger issues facing the country than the response to this storm: how we meet the huge challenges of a deteriorating economy, falling wages, rising costs, an ailing heath care system, global warming, not to mention Iran, Iraq, Russia, nuclear proliferation, the rise of Asia, etc., etc. Those are the questions we need to return to as the GOP convention gets more fully underway. And on the big issues, the McCain-Palin ticket still has a ways to go to persuade a majority of voters that it offers more hope that Obama-Biden.

More on the bigger questions overhanging the Republican convention in a coming post, but for now, we welcome your comments on how the Republicans have responded to Gustav.

Filed under: Hurricane Gustav • John McCain • Raw Politics
soundoff (147 Responses)
  1. Daniel, WA

    For all the Obama fans now attacking the Palin family, please allow me to point out that if Obama had simply done the right thing and selected Hillary, this election would now be in the can for the Democrats. Obama/Clinton would have been an unstoppable ticket and the bounce would have been huge. For whatever reason Obama did not select Hillary as his VP running mate, it gives all insight into his leadership style. I have to wonder about his status as a uniter and leader for a truly new course for our country. As it turned out Hillary and Bill were the real uniters! I am a moderate Republican and might have voted for Obama had Hillary been on the ticket. Now, I will vote for McCain because he has shown his ability to unite his own party in a profound way and he is the one who has reached across the aisle on many occasions for the betterment of the USA.

    September 1, 2008 at 3:22 pm |
  2. tainopower

    McCain is doing the right thing. But obama is not missing a chance to link bush and McCain. obama stop trying to link bush and McCain is not working . Everybody knows McCain is a maverick and your tactics is not working. Used the money that you want to used to link bush and McCain to help the victims of the hurricane. that will serve better.

    September 1, 2008 at 3:21 pm |
  3. Frank

    All these storms hitting the GOP at the same time. Hurricane Gustav hitting the gulf coast and GRANDMA Palin hitting the convention. Should make for interesting TV viewing for the rest of the week. May Gustav show little damage....but may Granny do her darndest to roil the ranks of christian right!

    September 1, 2008 at 3:21 pm |
  4. EJ (USA)


    BTW, what is Obama doing to help in the families in the path of Gustav?

    Obama sent out an email today asking his millions of supporters to make a donation to the Red Cross – even if it's only a $10 donation.

    September 1, 2008 at 3:19 pm |
  5. Margaret


    I agree it's wrong for someone to accuse you of choosing McCain just because of Palin – I'm sure you're much smarter than that! But I hope you'll reconsider and vote with Hillary's positions – which are the same as Obama's. Hillary believes we need a health care solution, John McCain doesn't think there's anything that needs fixing in health care... he just wants to give a tax credit that won't come close to paying for insurance in the current market. That's only one example.

    September 1, 2008 at 3:19 pm |
  6. payback

    irony here, members of james dobsons, church. made a video. where, they wanted people to pray for rain. to desrupt obamas, out door speech. but instead, we have hurrican gustav, to desrupt, the republican convention . talk about irony.......................................... ,

    September 1, 2008 at 3:17 pm |
  7. Patrick

    Political ploy, or whatever you call it. The Main thing is helping people and saving lives that are at potential risk.
    Katrina was a horrible disaster, both during and after the storm. Republican, Democrat or Libertarian, its all good, all help is welcomed.

    September 1, 2008 at 3:17 pm |
  8. Joseph M.

    This whole situation is sadly unfortunate. McCain has put our country in jeopardy with the choice of an unqualified VP, and now the Republicans want to try and play superhero with another natural disaster. It's really sad it's come down to this... The american people will see through this political ploy!

    No More! No McCain!

    September 1, 2008 at 3:15 pm |
  9. Sandra

    I see a few comments about Obama's admitted drug use. It's mentioned as if he was an addict. Let's stick to the question. Why is it when someone asks a republican a question they stray from anwering it and go back to the Democrats. Let's not forget Sarah Palin admitted to trying drugs as well. Don't throw stones without looking at yourself.

    September 1, 2008 at 3:14 pm |
  10. WILLIS



    This country can NOT afford to have another IDIOT president who makes decisions from the gut instead of using brains. Oh yeah, we have "STUPID" McCain, an academic bottom dweller who's brain is Alzheimer riddled. He made his decision with his eyes and hopes that white males will look at his clueless flunky so that they're not listening to his ignorance.

    We have heard how Sarah can shot and skin a bear, but we have not heard anything about what college "Airhead" Palin went to and what her grades were? Well, she fits into the BUSH-CHENEY-MCCAIN administration – she LIES like the rest of them. The baby is NOT hers, but belongs to her 17 year old daughter AND now they admit the daughter is pregnant again! They will not admit to the first child, so I say DNA.

    Tell us just educated is this new wicked witch of the evangelical christian lunatic fringe? What college did she attend and what were her grades!

    Also, for the media to blow this woman up with FALSE statements is lunacy! Her introduction speech as VP on Friday was “exceptional, excellent, well written, and knocked out of the park”???? All of you insult the America public and have lost all credibility with us!!

    Now she asks for privacy in regard to her teen-age daughter's pregnancy! The nerve - she brought her dirty laundry into the public while the GOP have had great pleasure in exposing all types of LIES about Obama! If Sarah can't take the heat, she should stay out of the frying pan!! Go back home with your LIES!


    September 1, 2008 at 3:14 pm |
  11. ian malcomson

    Politics has become a very nasty business. Try to be seen doing good as a conservative organizationand you get jumped all over by the liberal press and those judgmental Democrats who see their party as the exclusive saviour of the human race. For the GOP, toning down their convention in the interests of being sensitive to the plight of other humans is a no-brainer. But once again, in the cynical world of partisan politics, decisions like this quickly become " Damned if you do, damned if you don' t ". I like the Republican decision to change the spirit of self-absorbed celebration to one of putting the needs of the nation first by helping those in serious need. Nothing hypocritical about that move unless it's the Democrats scurrying to catch up in their efforts to look like good Samaritans too.

    September 1, 2008 at 3:14 pm |
  12. Peace

    Am not sure what they are doing will benefit majority. People are scattered in different directions and will not receive the assistance.

    Gustav has come, Gustav has gone. It did not put the nation at a halt. Discussing what to do for the entire nation is vital, unless there is nothing to discuss about!

    September 1, 2008 at 3:13 pm |
  13. Sandra

    Let's not be fooled. McCain's theme country first had nothing to do with Hurricane's and people of the USA. This happened to fall in his lap. His theme was prompted by his views of national security and the war. I am not saying he doesn't care about the Hurricane victims, but let's not start pretending this was the motivation behind his theme or this is what his theme means, because it doesn't.

    September 1, 2008 at 3:11 pm |
  14. Susie

    Honestly, what else could they do? Or more importantly, what would Obama have done had Gustav arrived last week (would he have foregone the address in his cathedral). Every critic needs to ask themselves what should have been done? Just being negative and attacking is ridiculous. There is so much more to criticize; why pick on this. Every Republican and every Democrat should stop and ask themselves how they would see each action, each statement, and each gaffe if it had been committed by their candidate. Then, if you believe you would criticize your candidate, go ahead and criticize. Each voter needs to make the decision on whom to vote logically, not based on emotion or party affiliation, or worship of a candidate.

    September 1, 2008 at 3:11 pm |
  15. Carl from MI

    Yes... Republicans are doing the right thing... for once!!

    Once the convention gets underway... let's see what other things they will do for the right reason too. Obama gave many examples and specific actions and solutions (sorry John, but you obviously didn't hear Obama's speech) to addressing the mess the Bush Administration has made of our country.

    And when I say Bush... I mean George W. Bush of the REPUBLICAN PARTY!!! It's time for the Republican Party to take ownership of the failed policies and poor direction our country is heading in BEFORE they can talk about CHANGE and the NEW DIRECTION our country needs to start heading towards.

    How can you fix a mistake without first owning up to making that mistake in the first place?? The state of our nation is due to decisions made mostly by those in the Republican Party and I'm still waiting for an apology!!!!!!!!

    Republicans can say the words "Country First" all they want... but without 'walking the walk' those words are nothing but lip service. And we saw lip service from Bush back in '00 when he swore up and down he would be a uniter and not a divider... empty words.

    So when the rest of us Independents hear words like "Country First" from a party that's put the WEALTHY, BIG OIL, AND CORPORATE AMERICA first for the last 8 years... you'll have to excuse us for not taking their bait. We've seen what the last 8 years have brought us.

    Republicans... it's time for ye to reap what ye have sown!!!

    September 1, 2008 at 3:11 pm |
  16. thomas romer

    it doesn’t really count if you have to completely drop the ball and ruin an entire city before you know better how to do it next time.

    September 1, 2008 at 3:10 pm |

    The hatred from the democrats have been incredible. Comments from Fowler and Michael Moore are not the jokes we want to hear. Comments about Palin's daughter pregnancy are so loud that we forget about Obam's drug "experiments". Wake up America!

    September 1, 2008 at 3:10 pm |
  18. Adam

    There is no moral choice here. The Republicans did what they had to do.

    Imagine the alternative:

    Split screen TV coverage of republicans cavorting at their convention while New Orleans is battered again by a hurricane. That would have been a disaster for them.

    September 1, 2008 at 3:09 pm |
  19. Geoffrey

    I agree that McCain did the only thing he could with the convention.

    Even excepting her views and how one might size up her "Experience" (and lack of education and lack of real prior experience as any sort of leader), the choice of Sarah Palin was exactly the kind of thoughtless irresponsible act as going for non-existant WMD, Outing a CIA agent NOC, declaring mission accomplished five+ years too early. THis is the Republican party and McCain is a part of it. Oh yeah, "You are doing a hell fo a job Brownie."

    McCain is showing himself in the modern republican mode of anti-intellectual, impulse driven, pandering to the worst tradition behavior. It hasn't put the country first, it has been hideously destructive and it just cannot go on.

    September 1, 2008 at 3:08 pm |
  20. Sandra

    I think they responded well to the Hurricane, but with all the news coming out about the Palin's I think is beginning to take away from any good efforts they attempt to make.

    September 1, 2008 at 3:07 pm |
  21. Leslie from Garden Grove, CA

    This is another example of how Americans misinterpret "caring" with regards to politics. McCain is in a great spot, let's face it – whether his beauty queen from Alaska will be a success or not "experience" wise – I think that's a given. She's not. Her family values stuff is crap. He succeeded by influencing the PUMAS – cheers. But McCain is a great politician – of course he's going to roll up his sleeves and put off the GOP convention – it would be foolish for him not to. Bush STILL looks like a fumbling mess, ie. the video posted of him at FEMA headquarters giving a briefing. This is a wonderful chance to shine for the GOP – I am an avid Obama supporter and I will say this – now's the time for him to step up and LEAD – these unfortunate events should give us a preview and show people who they are voting for – wonderful speeches are one thing, but actions are quite another. OBAMA NEEDS TO SHOW WHAT HE IS MADE OF because the White House he might inherit also comes with all the world's problems and he really needs to show everyone he is ready for the challenge.

    The PUMAS are a disgrace, truly selfish people who do not look at the bigger picture – LOOK at what you are voting for! You say you love Hillary, and if you think Palin has even .01% of the skills and agenda of Hillary you are sorely mistaken!

    September 1, 2008 at 3:05 pm |
  22. LDNHVU

    I remember seeing Obama clowing around with the comedians on Saturday Night Live.

    September 1, 2008 at 3:04 pm |
  23. Daniel

    With hurricane Gustave bearing down, once again John McCain has made an appropriate leadership decision without worrying about what anyone else thinks. Once again, as was the case with Georgia, Barack Obama has shown his exceptional skills at following as he curtailed his appearances today.

    September 1, 2008 at 3:03 pm |
  24. Dale

    It is so fortunate for the McCain/Palin ticket that Hurricane Gustav has hit the Gulf Coast of the United States. I have no intention of doubting that the Republicans do care about this country, and its citizens, but I want to point out that empathy is most convenient during the election season. I say this first and foremost to reiterate what we all know, with Republicans in control of both houses of congress and the white house, three years ago we all watched as New Orleans drowned on National Television and George Bush declared, "heck of a job Brownie".
    With a national election in November, an economy that is, losing jobs, millions of homes facing foreclosure, record surpluses turned to record deficits, and but for the pundits we would have concluded long ago that the economy is in recession. Lets not even begin with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, a resurgent Russia and Iran, health care and education just to name a few. The Republicans have no response, the only thing John McCain and his running mate can say is, "he is a different Republican". Well this don't take an entire week.
    Fortunately for them Gustav is here, they can cancel what was really going to be a party and an attempt to revive the faithful.

    September 1, 2008 at 3:01 pm |
  25. sead

    tho whole discusion is turned upsidedown, cutting their convention opening nigh was the only right thing to do in the light of the recent events.

    September 1, 2008 at 3:01 pm |
  26. cindy

    David, If you want to be completely honest when Katrina hit McCain was celebrating his birthday, and eating cake with Bush(pictures are there.) Also i certainly don't believe putting a young governor with zero foreign policy credentials a 72 year old heartbeat away from the presidency is putting country first. CNN poll showed that 3 quarters of those polled believe it was done to attract disaffected Hillary voters, and it makes him look very calculating. Also 50 percent of those polled think she is not qualified to be president, and once the link between that and McCain's age is established, the race could change dramatically!

    September 1, 2008 at 3:00 pm |
  27. Donna

    I think the Republicans are doing the right thing by suspending convention activities, or at least going minimal with them. Now, however, they'll turn it all into a big drive to show how good and caring they are, and idiots will fall for it and forget that their POLICIES are anything but. Hidden away from the cameras I have no doubt they are thanking God for the good fortune of having a hurricane hit right in the nick of time.

    September 1, 2008 at 3:00 pm |
  28. Melissa


    Palin has nothing to do with why I support McCain. I chose to do so before he chose his vp. I was a Hillary supporter because I felt she was a strong candidate and right for the job, as a college student her views appealed to me and I could tell the cares about the American people. When she did not get the nomination a chose to support the next best candidate. I see the same amount of care and passion in McCain that I saw in Hillary, which I do not see in Obama. I do not particularly like Palin, but my love of McCain makes up for that. I am offended that you think I would be so stupid to choose only because I am a woman and Palin is a woman.

    September 1, 2008 at 2:59 pm |
  29. Bobbie

    The GOP are Masters of Exploiting & Spinning events and tradgedies to advance an agenda of FEAR, and Gustav is no exception.
    McCain was terrified that the media would re-run images of he and George Bush eating cake as New Orleaned drowned in Katrina,Gustav gives them an opportunity to re-brand.
    It is all very very appalling. At least Obama has the decency and class not to head to NOLA for a photo op.
    Thank God the storm wasn't as bad as feared and spared us images of McCain in Pontoon boat rescuing dogs or something.

    September 1, 2008 at 2:58 pm |
  30. Jim- Kearny, NJ

    What a break for McSame and the Republicans.
    They don't have to parade Bush in front of the nation tonight and be reminded of the sheer incompetence of the administration's response to Katrina and Rita
    They couldn't have drawn it up in the playbook any better.

    September 1, 2008 at 2:56 pm |
  31. Vivian

    I'm in the military. McCain really cares

    September 1, 2008 at 2:55 pm |
  32. Ron Gray

    I think that McCain and the Republican Party is doing the right thing by hiding behind Hurricane Gustav. Just think of it, that storm blew President Bush right off the Republican convention speaking agenda.

    Chicago, IL.

    September 1, 2008 at 2:52 pm |
  33. Judy Stumpf

    Hurricane Gustav could not have arrived at a more propitious time–saved the Republicans from themselves. Poor St. Paul–all the cons and none of the pros.

    September 1, 2008 at 2:52 pm |
  34. Suzanne

    You might mention that the Obama campaign has sent e-mail messages to his millions of donors, requesting that they send money to the Red Cross to help the victims. A constructive response, in my view.

    September 1, 2008 at 2:51 pm |
  35. missy

    They would have been criticized no matter what they chose to do. Can't win.

    September 1, 2008 at 2:50 pm |
  36. mary kirk

    Yes indeed,La Gov Bobby Jindal's doing a solid job and he's only been in office since Jan2008 and is only the 3rd Republican govenor in Louisiana since 1888,this shows how Republicans know how to SERVE the people,what stark contrast to Katrina/Rita disasters under the stewardship of the 2005-2008 Dem Party stooges:fmrGov Blanco and the incumbents LtGov Landrieu( lost his bid to beat Nagin for the mayor's job) and NOLA mayor Nagin. What my family and neighborhood want to ask Blanco,Landrieu and Nagin is just how,where and when did y'all spend the Federal postKatrina/Rita RECOVERY money that flooded into the state,parish and city coffers under your watch 2005-Jan2008?

    September 1, 2008 at 2:48 pm |
  37. John

    While McCain & the Republicans put their own interests (& Convention) aside to "take action" in an effort to show compassion for those in need, Obama and the Democrats will certainly ridicule them while spouting out their own rhetoric about the many "financially impossible, but wonderful" programs they are going to provide, if and when Americans elect them. If they (Obama-Biden) get elected then they want have to perform, they will have the only thing they wanted. Soon it will be time to choose, Action and Solutions from McCain or talk and multitudes of "impossible" empty promises from Obama.

    September 1, 2008 at 2:46 pm |
  38. Cody

    The Republicans are doing exactly what they need to do. This is also exactly how both Senator McCain and Governor Palin have acted in their careers in public service. They know that they are not here for themselves, but for their country. I would not have expected any less from these two courageous public servants. McCain and Palin did not even have to think twice about putting country first. That is a nice breath of fresh air in politics.

    September 1, 2008 at 2:45 pm |
  39. Sandra

    Im sorrys it not on topic but noone has reported if ALI VELSHI is ok as his house was flooded. adn it was a bad scene
    Please let u sknow
    Thank you Anderson and STAY SAFE

    September 1, 2008 at 2:37 pm |
  40. Janet, USA via Canada(Toronto)

    Speeches don't help! Over even a FLY BY (Air Force One)!

    Its been three years since Katrina and they are still waiting, now the Republicans are showing their faces?

    Its the support of the grass roots people, Independents, Republicans, Democrats and outside support, who didn't need to step up and give the little or more that they had. Those, who quietly went down and rolled up their sleeves! Where Bush, Cheney and their partners had too many other important appointments.

    September 1, 2008 at 2:32 pm |
  41. Marcia

    Sometimes the right response generates side benefits...no Bush/Cheney appearance, automatic Bush/McCain women in both heroic and traditional emotional supportive light and cleverly manipulative of the news cycle to reveal uncomfortable information about the VP choice when attention is focus on the tragedies happening in Gustav...betting on our short attention span.

    BUT...how could any mother knowingly and deliberately allow her child to be put in the national spotlight for her own ambitions? And how could a presidential candidate knowingly choose a running mate that would put a family – especially a vulnerable young adult – in such a damaging position. If step one is to put her daughter into media hell, supportive hardly defines their actions.

    Call me a cynic, but pregnancy and DUI may just be the first of today's media releases from the McCain camp. In the name of "getting it all out", of course.

    September 1, 2008 at 2:31 pm |
  42. peter doelger

    Good point Cindy, but unfortunately, the nay sayers won't be happy until their "Obama" is in the oval office.

    BTW, what is Obama doing to help in the families in the path of Gustav? This is where the left and right should come together to help victims who are in the path of this storm.

    September 1, 2008 at 2:31 pm |
  43. nick pantelis

    I honestly don't think that there is anyone stupider and less informed than Hillary supports who are now McCain supporters...seriously how dumb and naive can you be to fall for this republican pandering...honestly- Mrs. Alaska/PTSA president?!?!? are you kidding me?!?!

    September 1, 2008 at 2:27 pm |
  44. Bill

    Melissa, you are the reason that McCain selected the incompetent Governor of Alaska to be his VP. Picking her was a blatant slap in the face to women voters. Its like McCain said that he knows the only issue that matters to most female voters is the gender of who they are voting for. If Hillary had won the nomination instead of Obama would McCain have selected a black man for his VP?

    September 1, 2008 at 2:26 pm |
  45. Arachnae

    The GOP had no choice – the images of Bush partying with a guitar (and McCain presenting him with a cake) as Katrina churned up the coast showed them the importance of appropriate appearances, at least. This time, I think you'll see no cabinet members shoe-shopping while citizens wave signs from rooftops.

    That said, the GOP has never met a disaster they couldn't exploit for poltical gain. Bush's entire Presidency is one long exploitation of 9/11.

    September 1, 2008 at 2:25 pm |
  46. Diane N.

    If McCain doesn't help people complain, when he does help people still complain. Doesn't seem fair.

    September 1, 2008 at 2:25 pm |
  47. Gary Chandler in Canada

    just do NOT turn all the PRE Gustov no shows to the convention, into 'hurricane induced' no shows.!!!
    - what a nice escape for the embarrassment of Bush and Cheney showing up.
    The medium storm, which 12 more hours of coverage will NOT turn into a major catastrophe, helped take the SPOT light off a 'divided' convention and a POOR VP pick.
    GET OFF the storm and get back to important issues, like Bristol!

    September 1, 2008 at 2:23 pm |
  48. Melissa

    As someone who was a Hillary supporter and is now for McCain, I think that McCain and the other Republicans have responded well to Gustav and have made the right decisions about limiting the RNC. I feel those who feel it is just an attempt to gain more favor think way to little of republicans. Yes they have their faults, but as far as Gustav goes, I think they really care

    September 1, 2008 at 2:16 pm |
  49. Renee

    Unfortunately, I interpret the Republican response to Gustav as a deterrent from this incompetent presidential ticket.

    A recent report by those in charge at the RNC indicated they were assembling care packages, etc. Why do this before you are aware of the needs?

    Let those in charge of the reponse effort provide direction on specific needs. The RNC is just spinning its wheels and will probably waste a lot of time and cause more confusion for those that are actually preparing to help victims of Gustav.

    Renee – Nashville, TN

    September 1, 2008 at 2:14 pm |
  50. Cindy

    I think that McCain and the Reps are doing the right thing by cutting their convention opening night back immensely and taking money for the victims of Gustav.

    The nay sayers won't be happy with anything unless they canceled it all together. They are ridiculous and just jealous because McCain is stealing the spotlight and showing his leadership while Obama is doing nothing.


    September 1, 2008 at 2:07 pm |
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