McCain heads to Gulf as GOP hopes to bury Katrina images

McClatchy NewspapersAugust 31, 2008 

ST. PAUL, Minnesota — President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney will not attend the Republican National Convention so they can monitor the impact of Hurricane Gustav, the White House said Sunday.

Bush had been scheduled to deliver a prime-time address to the delegates Monday night, and Cheney was to speak earlier.

Convention officials were weighing whether to change their convention plans, perhaps by stressing public service and even fund-raising for victims of the storm, which is heading for the Gulf Coast and expected to make landfall during the day Monday.

The hurricane would be an ironic, vivid reminder of one of the lowest points of the Bush administration. After it struck New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf coast, Bush headed to California and Arizona and discussed Medicare.

The president's handling of the aftermath of 2005's Hurricane Katrina helped send his job approval ratings into the mid-30s, and he's never recovered.

"It was Bush's worst mistake," said Calvin College political scientist Douglas Koopman. "It showed people the basic level of managerial incompetence in the administration."

Presumptive GOP nominee John McCain, his wife, Cindy, and ticket-mate Sarah Palin were heading to Jackson, Miss., Sunday for a briefing at the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency, which will monitor hurricane response.

McCain said he was considering changes in the convention should Gustav have a devastating impact.

"It just wouldn't be appropriate to have a festive occasion while a near tragedy or a terrible challenge is presented in the form of a natural disaster. So we're monitoring it from day to day, and I'm saying a few prayers too," he told Fox News Sunday.

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