Ambulance Chasing Politics: McCain Heads to the Gulf Coast

Leave it to the Republicans to turn human tragedy into a photo op.

The Huffington Post is reporting that portions of the Republican National Convention are being cut short so McCain can go to the Gulf Coast:

John McCain tore up the script for his Republican National Convention on Sunday, ordering the cancellation of all but essential opening-day activities as Hurricane Gustav churned toward New Orleans.

“This is a time when we have to do away with our party politics and we have to act as Americans,” he said as fellow Republicans converged on their convention city to nominate him for the White House.

On the eve of his convention, McCain positioned himself as an above-politics, concerned potential president determined to avoid the errors made by President Bush three years ago. “I have every expectation that we will not see the mistakes of Katrina repeated,” he said.

Bush and Vice President Cheney scrapped plans to address the convention on Monday, and McCain’s aides chartered a jet to fly delegates back to their hurricane-threatened states along the Gulf Coast. Campaign manager Rick Davis said the first-night program was being cut from seven hours to two and one half.

As Klingon Commander Worf would say, the Republicans have no honor. This trip, in fact, is ALL about politics.

There’s not a thing that John McCain, as a US Senator, can do to help; all he can do is watch… and be watched by the media.

If I was Obama, I would have this conversation with the press:

Press: What do you think of McCain’s trip to the Gulf Coast?

Obama: If he wants to go, that’s his prerogative. I spoke about that with my folks. We believe that if we were to go there, it might be perceived as ambulance chasing. We don’t want people to have that perception of us.

Press: So you’re saying McCain is ambulance chasing?

Obama: No, I’m saying I wouldn’t do it, for the reason I stated… Look, McCain and George Bush have a credibility problem. While Katrina was devastating the Gulf Coast, Bush and McCain were celebrating with a huge birthday cake. So I understand that they want to counter that image.

But I don’t see what he offers tactically to the relief effort. I believe that the politicians should get out of the way and let the public safety people do their jobs. But then again, perhaps he feels he needs to help George Bush in some way.

Press: Do you think you would visit the Gulf Coast?

Obama: That’s certainly possible. But I don’t want to visit, and have people think I’m there to do a photo op. After our courageous men and women have done their job, we’ll see. I will add this: when bills supporting the rebuilding of the Gulf Coast came to the floor of the Senate, I voted for them, and John McCain did not. I have a record of supporting those hurt by Katrina. Maybe, after seeing what a hurricane can do, McCain will become a champion of the area’s recovery too.
***

Of course, all of this serves to hide the real reason for McCain’s trip down South: the Republican Party knows that their Convention has the look of a ratings nightmare. Given that Convention Day 1 was about Bush/Cheney, whose negative ratings are through the roof, they were no doubt happy for ANY reason to cancel.

By going to the Gulf Coast, McCain feels he can win the news cycle by yapping it up with the press, and intermixing McCain/Palin pix with rescue images… images that McCain will have had nothing to do with. As an added benefit, it gives the McCain staff more time to prep Palin for the campaign, while “hiding” her from the press in plain sight (“We’re sorry, it would be inappropriate for the media to talk to Mrs Palin during this time of emergency… but feel free to take a picture of her looking out the window and showing her concern”).

When Dr. James Dobson’s Focus on the Family was praying for rain, I think this is what they were hoping for. It’s too bad the people of the Gulf Coast must suffer for their sins.

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