A Change of Script

Republicans didn’t have much choice as they start their convention in St. Paul, Minnesota.  They could go forward and take a lot of flak, or truncate their business for now in deference to Hurricane Gustav’s fury.

They chose the latter, with John McCain being very pro-active about the change in plans.

“This is a time when we have to do away with our party politics and we have to act as Americans,” McCain said by satellite after getting a briefing about the storm from the feds.

Basically, McCain decided to do only what was necessary in a truncated Monday session of the convention.

So, instead of seven plus hours of action, you may only get two hours – and supposedly there won’t be anything but process – no attacks on the Democrats or anything.

GOP leaders heartily endorsed the idea, as various state delegations moved to cancel plans for big parties, so that they didn’t look like a bunch of morons while people were losing everything they had along the Gulf Coast.

The Florida delegation quickly blew up the idea of a post acceptance speech Pool Party at their hotel, which I’m sure might have featured delegates having one or two drinkies each.

Instead, they decided to donate the money they would have spent to Gulf Coast charities and/or the Red Cross.

Ohio’s delegation began passing the hat on Sunday, using a scheduled party to raise money for those in need.

“We are continuing to monitor the situation and stand prepared to help our Gulf Coast neighbors in any way we can,” said Georgia GOP Communications Director Doug Reineke.

“Like you, I know there are things that are more important than politics,” said Georgia GOP Chair Sue Everhart in an email to delegates.

GOP officials raised the specter of a convention that could be drastically curtailed, one that might not even have the nominee here in person to accept the nomination.

Whether you agree with McCain or not, his team clearly understood that they needed to drive the news related to Gustav, and not react after the fact, after it was too late, and after they had been pummeled for partying while others were dying.

Earlier on Sunday, the White House had announced that President Bush and Vice President Cheney would be cancelling their own visits to the convention.  Mr. Bush was scheduled to speak on Monday night.

Let’s face it – the news on Monday will be all about Gustav.  Depending on how quickly the storm moves onshore and inland, we may not get real pictures of any damage until sunrise on Tuesday.

I have covered a number of hurricanes, and there is nothing worse than when daylight comes, and it seems like the affected area has survived okay.

That’s because it takes awhile to find the neighborhoods that have taken a direct hit.

It won’t surprise me if there is no convention session on Tuesday and then the GOP decides to quickly nominate John McCain and Sarah Palin and get out of town fast.

There is a lot of work to do at home, with the election nine weeks from tomorrow.