Monday, September 1, 2008

McCain's Disastrous Politics of Gustav

By: Moira Whelan

Today, Obama stated that he would stay out of the way as Hurricane Gustav once again threatens the Gulf Coast. Even Bush, who three years ago celebrated Katrina's landfall at John McCain's birthday party, is staying away.

What does McCain do? Just like he did when he traveled to a market place in Baghdad, he puts the lives of Americans in danger, and diverts the mission for his own personal political gain. He will travel to the Gulf Coast to give a speech while emergency professionals are urging people to leave. Not only is it political grandstanding, it's a disgusting display of the type of bad leadership we would see if John McCain became President.

Preparedness for hurricanes is serious business. When it's done right, emergency managers control the airwaves, the message, and urge political leaders to stay out of the way so they can make sure people and property are safe. Senators and Congressmen are briefed, but told to stay out of the way and wait until they find out what resources are needed, and then make it happen. The governor takes cues from the Emergency Management director of the state: brief people to get out, show leadership, be honest, and make the calls for resources that need to be made. The President turns the keys to government over to the FEMA director to make sure resources flow properly and stands by to twist arms if needed. The business of disasters is left to disaster professionals with politicians playing a supporting role.

Now admittedly, we haven't seen that in recent years, but when government works for people, this is how it happens.

But not in 2008, and not when John McCain is sucking wind on a political campaign.

Now, some Americans will see McCain's trip as "leadership" but just as John McCain's visit to a marketplace in Baghdad resulted in three Blackhawk helicopters and hundreds of soldiers being ordered to protect his photo op stroll through the market, this could be deadly.

It's a complete disregard for the mission and the government professionals at all levels attempting to keep people safe.

John McCain's mere suggestion that he should go there shows his horrific and dangerous judgment. If it actually happens, which hopefully it does not, then he will actually be doing harm. Because he is a presidential candidate, air traffic stops when he lands, roads are closed, and press follow him. Secret service and law enforcement personnel have to make sure everything is secure. That means all of these things STOP WORKING to make the area safer for the people getting out and protecting their homes. The only thing working in the favor of emergency management professionals are the noticeably small crowds at McCain perhaps people will not be motivated to stay around.

These are the very reasons Obama and Biden dismissed the suggestion of travel immediately when asked. He's talked to Jindal--a man on McCain's short list for veep--and has expressed help. Trips of politicians often happen after major storms, but when doing these, the main goal is to highlight the devastation in order to secure the resources needed to fix it. It appears these gentlemen get it, and McCain is out of touch in a truly dangerous way.

McCain's suggestion of a visit will waste precious hours in getting resources in at a time when hours and minutes make all the difference. It will impact news coverage which should otherwise be used to urge people to get out through the proper channels, not political parties.

The Republican suggestion that they may postpone their convention is understandable in some ways. This is, after all, a major emergency. I do think there are many who see this as a political opportunity to not have an embarrassing show that follows one that was amazing the Democrats had this week. They've floated the idea of a telethon to raise money. Political grandstanding? Sure, but at least it could do some good and you're not in the way.

But a visit? Senator McCain, that would be a disaster for the country. Your truly reckless act would show once and for all that you actually would be worse than President Bush.


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