Years from now, political consultants will be studying how the McCain camp responded to the pending tragedy named Gustav, now swirling in the Gulf of Mexico. The first volley: John McCain promised today to hold something like a non-partisan, non-political start to the convention, which is a bit like making a banana split without bananas, or ice cream. Said McCain:
We must redirect our efforts from the really celebratory event of the nomination of president and vice president of our party to acting as all Americans. We’ll change our program and I’ll be announcing details of it in the next few hours. But there’s very little doubt that we have to go from a party event to a call to the nation for action, action to help our fellow citizens in this time of tragedy and disaster, action in the form of volunteering, donations, reaching out our hands and our hearts and our wallets to the people who are under such great threat from this great natural disaster. I pledge that tomorrow night, and if necessary, throughout our convention if necessary, to act as Americans not Republicans, because America needs us now no matter whether we are Republican or Democrat.
Of course, this statement fits nicely with the McCain campaign’s central message of being a new kind of unifying Republican. But it’s still a major trick to pull off–turning a potential echo of the great Hurricane Katrina embarrassment into a showcase for a new kind of Republican competence. Stay tuned.