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. Neel


    There are several major religons in the world. All of which are pactices in the United States. You sound very similar to the terrorists that have attacked our country.

    To live in a world community we need to separate religon from government. Is God's will that the next president should attack China because they are Hindus and Budists? And not Christians, Muslims or Jewish.

    Religons are important, but not a part of politics!!!!!!!

    September 1, 2008 at 9:11 pm |
  2. Jolene

    Hi David:
    I'm an undecided voter so I'm not taking either side here just telling it as I see it. I think the Republicans did the right thing (and if the situation was reversed, the Democrats would do the same I'm sure). I don't for any second believe that the Republicans used Gustav as an excuse to get Bush off the speaking agenda. I, for one, would have wanted to hear what he had to say on the opening night of their convention (and my guess is so would the Obama campaign!).

    Last week watching the DNC, although great speeches were made, I felt it was all about party unity and yes, partying! Thursday's event being the biggest one ever! The Republicans were denied that opportunity this week and I'm sure there were many plans in place to have some fun this week. So, it's not only a sacrifice for the RNC but also for the city of St. Paul because I'm sure the hotels, restaurants, shops, etc. lost an opportunity to better their economy. Even as Gustav blows away, we have other TS and Hurricanes lingering out there so it would have been a moving target no matter what the RNC decided to do.

    Thanks for blogging!

    Jolene, St. Joseph, MI

    September 1, 2008 at 9:10 pm |
  3. Billy

    As an Obama supporter, I believe John McCain is doing the right thing in the face of this hurricane. I am appreciative of both his and Senator Obama's efforts to help those endangered by this disaster.

    September 1, 2008 at 9:07 pm |
  4. Stacey

    There was no choice here. They could not afford another Katrina moment. They are doing what should always be done. So, thanks a lot, Republicans. Glad you could get it right THIS time, but Katrina will NEVER be forgotten.

    September 1, 2008 at 9:00 pm |
  5. LarryJ

    @Mike Gap: And what did I say about where I believe or know my candidate stands?

    Btw, want to talk about inexperience? HURRA, you don't get it do you?

    September 1, 2008 at 8:59 pm |
  6. jonathan F.

    McBush IS doing the right thing.

    RNC festivities during a natural (and national) disaster would be
    irresponsible politically and horribly insensitive to the hundreds of thousands of americans in the Gulf
    Obama would have done the same.

    good job McBush!

    Barack Hussein Obama
    will still be a better president. period.

    OBAMA 08

    September 1, 2008 at 8:37 pm |
  7. George

    God's will is what Americans need to pray for. No human sentiments will prevail. Leaders are appointed by the Lord. As He has already in the past, so will He in the presnt and the future.He has already pre-desinted America's next leader and every human heart on earth, the answer is already apparent.

    September 1, 2008 at 8:37 pm |
  8. Carmen

    Funny how things work out, looks like McCain is a TV watcher, the sitcom 'Commander in Chief' staring Geena Davis, can't believe the similarities in his appointment for VP. Wonder if she steps down before or after the election? You are all correct, it wouldn't make any difference when this storm occurred, the American people will come to their aid. Of course Obama didn't go running down there as McCain did because he didn't want to overtax the public servants (police, sherrifs etc) who would have had to escort him, so he did the next best thing, sent an email to all his supporters requesting money to be used in the best manner possible. Oh, and by the way I am a woman and shall vote the issues, not the gender, skin color, weight, or any other frivilous agenda.

    September 1, 2008 at 8:31 pm |
  9. elisabeth

    It is hard to believe that there are indeed people out there who voted for Hillary and now, just like immature brats who did not get their way, go on voting for someone who advocates exactly the opposite of what Hillary stands for. Call that stupid!

    September 1, 2008 at 8:28 pm |
  10. Kathy

    Think both candidates did something to help - Obama sent emails and McCain packed up some boxes with supplies - let's call it even.

    So that brings us back to the main issue - do we want to go forward or backward? McCain's pick of an inexperienced and unvetted VP candidate just to pander to "women" and ultra-conservatives seems like a backward step. Although I am an Obama supporter - I have always respected JM - but now that respect is starting to dissipate...

    September 1, 2008 at 8:17 pm |
  11. Mike Cap

    Larry J and Donna....PLEASE get a clue and know what your candidate stands for before engaging in political discussion. Your candidate provides enough inexperienced jibberish for us....we dont need to hear it from his so-called supporters.

    McCain/Palin '08

    September 1, 2008 at 8:14 pm |
  12. Neel

    I'm an independent and politics aside. I think this is a classy move by the republicans. Most things that happen to our country are above partisonship and it's high time both parties wake up and see this.

    September 1, 2008 at 8:12 pm |
  13. Angela

    Shame on the Laura Bush and the Republicans for using the internet to campaign under the disguise of raising funds for Gustav victims.

    If you were truly interested in supporting victims, you would have directed persons to the Red Cross or other charities that are on the ground and engaged in relief efforts.

    Remove the campaign propaganda. This is a disgrace!

    September 1, 2008 at 8:12 pm |
  14. Kayla

    After Katrina do they really have a choice ? By the way David, why were people STILL living in FEMA trailers 3 years after Katrina? When will they finish the Katrina disaster ? Just another mess they leave as they get out of dodge.

    September 1, 2008 at 8:07 pm |
  15. Mike Cap

    OOOOHHHH.....Obama sent EMAILS to people in the wake of Gustav.....wow, maybe we should ordain him with a Purple Heart.
    Give me a break. I would LOVE to have seen what would happen if this hurricane struck last Thursday when Obama Appollo made his speech at OBAMATROPOLIS. The DNC would have proceded as normal because OOOHHHH....we can't interfere with the path of the CHOSEN ONE.....Give me a friggin break.

    McCain/Palin '08 – True Heros, Country First

    September 1, 2008 at 8:06 pm |
  16. Kris So Cal

    This is for Melissa,

    The former HRC supporter and now supports McCain.

    How can you admit that you are now in "Love" with McCain and are now voting for him, he is everything HRC is against.

    How can you call yourself a true HRC supporter? You are a fake and should be ashamed of yourself. With supporters like you who needs enemys, Hillary doesn't....

    SHAME ON YOU!!!!

    September 1, 2008 at 8:04 pm |
  17. patrick,corona,ca

    Why are all the Mccain supporters giving Mccain so much credit simply for halting the RNC convention? Thats a given that any candidate would have done the same.Obama and Biden are doing there part by making sure donations and aid are getting to where it needs to be. Oh but ofcourse CNN forgot to insert that part. Mccain cant do anymore than Obama or anybody else can. Its all on Bush.

    FYI, Mccain has not stolen anything from the Democratic party. Mccain must now come back and deal with Mrs Palins drama.

    September 1, 2008 at 8:02 pm |
  18. Polly DeLange, Cleveland, Ohio

    Oh, that's nice.... It would have been even better if the GOP had shown support for the American families and workers who were struggling these past 8 years. It would have been spectacular if GOP and their boy president Bush had actually been paying attention to falling wages, outsourced jobs, skyrocketing healthcare and the selling off of American's hard won assets. Not to mention how this administration has ripped off seniors and padded the pockets of special interests. And abandonded the least of us in Katrina. It's nice that the GOP wants to make nice after all these years of trashing the average american. This effort for Gustav seems like master spin to me. Give me a break. I LOVE AMERICA and I'm voting Obama/Biden and for every other dem on the ticket.

    September 1, 2008 at 8:00 pm |
  19. patrick,corona,ca

    Not really, it has already been made clear that some levies had yet to be finished prior to the storm, so what the hell has the mayor of Loiusianna and Bush been doing since Katrina? Let me guess Bush is doing the same thing Mrs Pali did with the Bridge to nowhere!

    September 1, 2008 at 7:58 pm |
  20. Michael, Pensacola, FL

    They've responded as well as any group that totally dropped the ball during the last crisis. Will their efforts bring back all those lost lives, no, so don't congratulate yourself for something you're supposed to do anyway. What's the ONLY function of government, protect its people!

    September 1, 2008 at 7:37 pm |
  21. Donna

    @Henry..the word is "crystal"....LOL

    Of course the Republicans are responding the right way..the cameras are watching and so is the world!! Had Gustav happened last week, the Democrats would have done the same things...its called being a human being...don't give McCain extra credit for doing something he should be doing anyway...

    September 1, 2008 at 7:16 pm |
  22. LarryJ

    @Henry: Yes,we love America, our great nation. That's why we vote Obama.

    Your posts say more about you and the Reps than of Obama and the Dems – so full of substance!

    September 1, 2008 at 6:14 pm |
  23. Henry

    I have a question to all my fellow american, do you love America, our great nation ? then if yes, lets all vote for Mc Cain.

    In this trying and trouble times, who else can we trust, the answer, well so cristal clear, Mc Cain, Honorable Man and a Hero of this Great Nation.

    September 1, 2008 at 5:22 pm |
  24. Mel

    I believe there are three reasons why John McCain downgraded his Convention to a Category 1: first, and foremost, I do not believe the Republicans could compete with the historicity of the Democratic Convention and the attention it drew; second, I believe that with so many keynotes bailing – Bush, Cheney, and Governors Swartzenegger and Bobby Jindal – that they had logistical issues independent of Gustav. It is a bonus that the unpopular George Bush and Dick Cheney have been scrubbed from the agenda. What would be more compelling is if Senator McCain had prevailed upon Bush-Cheney 3 years ago when he was a so-called maverick rather than the belated claims that he now sees Katrina as a disgrace. What is he doing now? Encouraging rebuilding or funds to return people home? Finally Senator Obama has his folks organized to engaged in service in Denver - and they did not need a disaster to do it; this is just copycat stuff and while David Gergen is prepared to be generous I am not.

    September 1, 2008 at 5:20 pm |
  25. AJ

    OK i know some of you are being blinded by all the coverage of the storm and the republicans response to the storm but Obama has been doing plenty... he has been in consistent contact with the head of FEMA Mr Chertoff, and has directed his supports to giving money for the aftermath of the storm instead of to his campaign which is HUGE considering he is not taking public financing... i know some of you might not use email or text messaging but I dont mind forwarding your the information of where you can donate

    September 1, 2008 at 5:20 pm |
  26. Henry

    MC Cain is a good leader, someone who cares fro his people. This is the kind of president we need in this trouble times.

    Open your eyes fellow american, vote for Mc Cain. Hussein OBAMA is a risky senator, unexperience candidate that will destroy our great nation.

    September 1, 2008 at 5:16 pm |
  27. Jamie

    And where is Obama through all of this? Looks like he is in the same place as he when Russia invaded Georgia. He's on vacation from the campaign trail and ignoring what is going on with the hurricanes and such. This is the example Obama wants to set for America? When something happens, it don't matter to him?

    September 1, 2008 at 5:13 pm |
  28. Uma, Liverpool, UK

    My original comment was 'Moderated' for being too long. Sorry. I lose my head, sometimes.

    McCain *appears* concerned about the people of the Gulf. He's such a practised performer that I don't know whether he really is, or is playing to his audience.

    Regardless of his sincerety, or lack of same, this is a *blessing* for the spin-doctors of the Republican Party.

    -They can use this to make John McCain out as the 'self-sacrificing American Hero'.

    -He gets distance from Bush/Cheney.

    -The UNBELIEVABLY BAD VP choice he produced from a hat on Friday, will be rubber-stamped onto the ticket, for November, without discussion or any danger of people asking inconvenient questions.

    Isn't it NICE that all those Republicans are 'praying' for the poor people in the Gulf? Prayer has its place. It doesn't rebuild levees. I am *interested* to see what will happen in the next few weeks... which are critical, both for those in the storm-affected areas, and for both Campaigns.

    I am shocked by the state of disrepair in which NOLA was, still, after three years. When you *know* that a storm like Katrina is not only possible, but *likely*, you don't drag your feet on rebuilding the infrastructure! Climate-change means every year will bring more and worse storms, people! Get a clue.

    Please, let there not be an anti-spending Republican IDIOT in the White House (again/still) the *next* time!

    September 1, 2008 at 5:11 pm |
  29. Te

    Mckain mentioned taking off his republican hat and putting on his american hat. Is that what this was? The past 8 years and during hurricane Katrina they forgot to take off that Republican hat. Sorry Mckain and Palin, keep your republican hats on and STOP FAKING to even having an American Hat.

    September 1, 2008 at 5:02 pm |
  30. Ingrid

    Sometimes people get so political that they miss the realism of it all! John McCain and the Republicans are doing the right and noble thing in light of hurricane Gustav, and for the record, I am a Obama / Biden Supporter.

    Doantions and Help is always the right thing to do!!!

    September 1, 2008 at 4:59 pm |
  31. Terry from GA

    The only reason why McCain and the GOP are doing this is because they were embarrased 3 years ago when Katrina hit the Gulf Coast while George Bush and McCain were eating birthday cake.

    September 1, 2008 at 4:56 pm |
  32. Heath Mayo

    great point dylan.. this could show the major difference between McCain and Obama that, so far, has kept the race this close. While Obama's rhetoric speaks to HOPE and CHANGE. McCain's speaks and shows EXPERIENCE, ACTION, and REFORM which is coming out quite clearly in his response to this storm. Obama is going to realize before this over that inspiration doesn't win elections, experience and action does.

    September 1, 2008 at 4:55 pm |
  33. John C, St Paul, Mn

    David... I am wondering if the Palin nomination was McCain throwing the election to Obama. McCain is characterized as a maverick which I believe is code of smartass. My theory is that neo-cons were forcing him to pick a pro-life candidate or cut off funding. McCain new this would alienate swing voters and subsequently lose the election. Being a maverick (aka smartass), he decided out do them. If neo-cons wanted to drive the campaign into the ditch, he was going to drive it over the cliff in a magnanimous gesture harkening back to Geraldine Ferraro.

    September 1, 2008 at 4:53 pm |
  34. LarryJ

    @mikey: You must be as paranoid as can be. Did it occur to you that it just so happens that there are 7 to 1 in favor of Obama caring enough about the future of our nation to bother using the CNN forums here? You don't seriously believe that the moderators are deleting posts that are too pro McCain do you? Get real!

    September 1, 2008 at 4:51 pm |
  35. Mike Sarasota, Florida

    Political opportunism at it's grandest scale! McCain and the RNC are, in a word; shameless. The hypocracy, not to mention the laughable audacity of their "Country First" slogan is mind-bending! The argument against McCain's devotion to country now really begins and ends with his VP pick. This is putting country first? And if anybody is wondering about his position on putting family first? Check with his first wife. Please... Just when you think McCain, the RNC, and the Republican status quo has made your skin crawl for the last time, they manage to get even creepier! How much relief work did John and Cindy participate in POST Katrina? The answer is zero. If they had, they might have run into Mr and Mrs Carter who could have taught them a thing or two about putting country, and PEOPLE first.

    September 1, 2008 at 4:50 pm |
  36. JJ

    ... 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.

    I am DEM supporter. But I totally agree with what you said, David. Thanks.

    September 1, 2008 at 4:49 pm |
  37. Cathy in Vermont

    David, I too think the Republican's have done the right thing in curtailing their convention but the cynic in me sees a grain of truth in what the critics are pointing out.

    Any thoughts.....is the honeymoon coming to an end for Sarah Palin?

    September 1, 2008 at 4:48 pm |
  38. Harvey McNeil

    The GOP used Gustav as an excuse for not being prepared for their convention. Mr. Bush was the first one to jump this excuse. The President of the United States can only do one thing at a time, as the President of the U.S. was he going down and field sand bags. If they had to stop the government because of Gustav, what will they do when that phone ring at 3:00 am.


    September 1, 2008 at 4:48 pm |
  39. Bunny

    What's McCain doing in Mississippi? He's not President yet? Seems to me a few weeks ago, he sarcastically accused Obama of acting like the President. This storm is for the President, the federal and state governments to handle and they seem to be doing a good job. Get out of the way, John!!!! Maybe it was too long ago that he made his accusation and he has forgotten!!! But, we voters don't forget–just another case of ambition, pandering, opportunism, hasty, reckless decisionsand poor judgment. Just an example of what we will get if, God forbid, he becomes elected,

    September 1, 2008 at 4:46 pm |
  40. Darcy

    So far, so good.

    Now, if they will just return to the convention so we can see, compare and evaluate.

    Obama 2008

    September 1, 2008 at 4:46 pm |
  41. Mark in Phoenix

    Bush/Cheney is too toxic for the RNC and the party hacks were looking for any reason at all to prevent them from speaking...without Gustav to the rescue they might have had to bump up the terror alert to tangerine or maybe pomegranate.

    You would think they would reschedule the speeches of the nations top to Republicans. Nah...don't want to cut in on important speeches from the mayor of Dogpatch or whatever.

    Also the news about Sarah Palin's daughter being pregnant – she can now be the poster child for the "family-values" abstinence only sex education crowd. The Fundaloonies will eat it up

    September 1, 2008 at 4:44 pm |
  42. TJJackson

    There was simply no political alternative for the Republican party if they want to have any hope of keeping the white house in November. It would have appeared insensitive and incredibly inappropriate to hold a political event with a hurricane threatening New Orleans once again. At the same time saying that this is anything but a political move is ludicrous. McCain is not the man in charge of any potential relief effort that may occur in New Orleans. McCain is in no way critical to the emergency management of the federal government. At the moment he is nothing more than a member of congress, if he wins in November than things like this will become his responsibility but while he is a senator running for president, any move to make himself appear more important than he really is is nothing more than a political ploy, undertaken out of necessity, not out of choice

    September 1, 2008 at 4:44 pm |
  43. Audrey

    I think McCain has responded very well to Gustav. It was a correct decision to tone down the convention and focus on raising money for victims. I think the most important thing is to bring attention to the effected areas and make sure the victims are taken care of. However, I'm sure Obama's supporters will find ways to bash McCain no matter what he does.

    September 1, 2008 at 4:43 pm |
  44. Steven Knoblauch

    David are you aware that as governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin awarded $500 million to a Canadian NOT AMERICAN company along with a license to build and operate a $26 billion pipeline in the US?

    Is that not outsourcing American jobs and investing in foreign and not American employers?

    Is this the kind of reform that McCain praises in the activities of Sarah Palin?

    Is this the kind of executive decisiveness that will benefit the American worker and the American economy?

    As more information comes to light about her history, Sarah Palin begins to often look as enthusiastic, but also naive, not able to grasp the full implications of the decisions that she is required to make and how these decisions affect the future of Americans.

    September 1, 2008 at 4:43 pm |
  45. Stephen, Missouri

    No amount of pandering will erase the memories of Katrina. McCain running everywhere does not absolve him of sharing ab-day cake with GW while peole were drowning. THis is the same guy who voted against Martin Lurther King holiday, this is the same guy that voted against assistance for Katrina victims 4 times.

    While this short-term gesture may make McCain look good, his votes as concerns Katrina issues should shed light to who McCain is...a leader with poor judgement.

    September 1, 2008 at 4:43 pm |
  46. Mario

    Yes just hypocrite

    September 1, 2008 at 4:40 pm |
  47. James Dylan

    This was a good thing for McCain to do. I disagree with David Gergen on the point of who "offers more hope." It is not about hope, it is about who will be doing. Who offers actions not words or feelings. Who will BE the best President not just talk about it or play on peoples emotions.

    September 1, 2008 at 4:38 pm |
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