Monday, September 1, 2008

McCain Not Playing Politics With Gustav? Yeah, Not So Much

John McCain has gotten a lot of credit in recent days, and deservedly so, for choosing to curtail part of the Republican National Convention in deference to the people of New Orleans the related areas who at this time are being hammered by the remnants of Hurricane Gustav. Good for McCain. He absolutely deserves credit for that. While it's also the right thing to do politically (attacking Obama and celebrating while a hurricane is punishing part of America doesn't work) McCain is paying a price for this decision, as his party will not get the chance to get their message out on an equal basis like the Democrats did last week.

But, let's not kid ourselves, the McCain campaign absolutely is playing politics with the hurricane. And in many ways, what they accomplished today, and the news they buried today, by making it public on the same day all the newspapers, cable news networks, and evening newscasts are focused on the hurricane, was worth so much more than anything they could have gained from tonight's scheduled convention speeches from the vastly unpopular Dick Cheney and George W. Bush.

What news did the McCain campaign release today that each could have been big stories, and could have been very damaging to the campaign? Three dings to the Vice President nobody (including, apparently, the McCain campaign) knows anything about. First was word that Palin's 17-year-old daughter is pregnant. And, I agree with what Barack Obama said earlier today that families should be off-limit in Presidential campaigns. The story here isn't that Palin's daughter is pregnant, that's a private family matter. It's how McCain could trust somebody with the future of the country that he knows so little about, and that he's still learning about.

One thing perhaps he didn't know, which was also very quietly released today, was news that Palin's husband was arrested for DUI in 1986. Now does a candidate's husband's mistake as a 22-year-old disqualify that candidate from seeking higher office? Of course not. But there's no coincidence the news was released today when it would get absolutely zero attention because of the hurricane.

And then there was the late breaking news that Palin has hired a private attorney for herself and her staff related to allegations she fired an Alaska Public Safety Comissioner who refused to fire Palin's ex-brother-in-law. As Dan Abrams said on MSNBC this afternoon, it makes a lot of sense that Palin would hire a lawyer (especially since her deposition is likely to be taken in the next few weeks) and there's nothing inherently suspicious about doing so (in fact, it's the right and smart thing to do). But, again, politically, it won't look good. And there's no question the release of the news late this afternoon was done purposefully as to be buried by the hurricane coverage.

Was the McCain campaign smart to release these news items today? Absolutely. No question. But let's not pretend that the timing was simply coincidental or that the McCain campaign wasn't trying to take advantage of the news dead zone the hurricane provided them to release these stories.

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