McCain shuts down Party convention

John McCain in effect froze the Republican Party convention in St Paul, Minnesota yesterday, telling Americans that it was time to forswear politics as usual as Hurricane Gustav bore down on the Gulf Coast.

The decision left thousands of delegates and reporters in limbo in Minnesota and perhaps millions of balloons inflated for nothing. And instead of reclaiming the initiative from the Democrats and Barack Obama, the Republicans were facing a perfect storm of their own, brought on by memories of Katrina.

Speaking via satellite from St Louis, Missouri, Mr McCain declared all usual party razzmatazz out of bounds and said it was time to "take off our Republican hats and put on our American hats".

The Bush administration is still haunted by the incompetent response to the 2005 disaster. Even before last night's announ-cement, George Bush and his Vice-President, Dick Cheney, had cancelled their plans to travel to St Paul and address delegates.

It was unclear last night how much of the party's convention plan will be salvaged beyond today. Barring an unexpected change of course or weakening of Gustav, it seemed unlikely that much convention business would occur tomorrow either.

If Gustav indeed becomes a natural disaster on the scale of Katrina, the convention in St Paul may end up doing very little beyond conducting the official business of conferring the nomination on Mr McCain. Rick Davies, a top political aide, said that the convention represents for Mr McCain "the culmination of his political career," and that he wants to be in St Paul, he "won't do anything inappropriate".

Three years ago, Mr Bush was holiday when he made his ill-judged remark that New Orleans had "dodged the bullet". Two days later he made it to the city, but it was a only a flyover, and the photo of him staring out the window of Air Force One unintentionally became a symbol of his administration's botched response. For many Americans, it crystallised the image of a president detached from the tragedy below.

The last thing the Republicans need now is a deluge of bad memories of their president's incompetent response to Katrina. Mr McCain and his presidential running mate Sarah Palin, the Governor of Alaska, were on the ground in Jackson, Mississippi, yesterday conveying a can-do approach to the gathering storm. His Democratic rival, Barack Obama, said that he might visit storm-damaged areas once "things have settled down".

As the prospective commander-in-chief, Mr McCain must now walk a fine line between showcasing his leadership in a time of crisis, without looking as if he is openly embracing the disaster. Instead of celebrating the Republican ticket as planned, officials are discussing ideas for a major relief effort, possibly a telethon to raise funds for those hit by Gustav 1,100 miles away.

With Democrats claiming a McCain presidency would be like a third George Bush term, the Republican nominee is trying to keep his distance. Mr McCain has called the administration's response to Katrina "disgraceful".

It is a verdict shared by even one-time Bush allies, such as the former White House press secretary Scott McClellan. "One of the worst disasters in our nation's history became one of the biggest disasters in Bush's presidency, Katrina and the botched federal response to it would largely come to define Bush's second term," he wrote in his tell-all memoir this year.

The fateful turn that the Bush presidency took during Katrina left it mired in perceptions of incompetence. Patriotic voters who were prepared to forgive him for miscalculations in Iraq were less forgiving over Katrina and Mr Bush's approval ratings were never to recover.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Life and Style
Mary Beard received abuse after speaking positively on 'Question Time' about immigrant workers: 'When people say ridiculous, untrue and hurtful things, then I think you should call them out'
tech
Life and Style
Most mail-order brides are thought to come from Thailand, the Philippines and Romania
life
News
i100
Life and Style
tech
Voices
Margaret Thatcher, with her director of publicity Sir Gordon Reece, who helped her and the Tory Party to victory in 1979
voicesThe subject is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for former PR man DJ Taylor
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions