This time round, he rushed to the Gulf Coast so he could feign concern for ordinary Americans and get in some good photo ops. And he might snow a few suckers who don't understand what he's doing.
Let me put this in plain terms: he cares because he wants to get elected.
While Obama's doing the right thing and staying out of the way, using his email list and website to raise funds and monitoring the situation without diverting attention from the emergency response, McCain's busy grandstanding.
And he's hoping Americans have a very short-term memory:
Here is what John McCain and George Bush were doing on August 29, 2005, when 1836 Americans started to drown in their own sewage:
What a difference an election year makes.
Lest you get snookered by McCain's "rapid response" into thinking he's doing Gulf Coast residents some kind of favor, consider this:
And let’s hope that Mr. McCain doesn’t jet into the disaster area in Gustav’s aftermath. The candidate’s presence wouldn’t do anything to help the area recover. It would, however, tie up air traffic and disrupt relief efforts, just as Mr. Bush did when he flew into New Orleans to congratulate Brownie on the work he was doing. Remember the firefighters who volunteered to help Katrina’s victims, only to find that their first job was to stand next to Mr. Bush while the cameras rolled?
I hear he visited an emergency preparedness center in Mississippi. I'm sure that wasn't at all disruptive to the preparation efforts.
Steve Benen has an excellent point to make:
John McCain doesn't have a background in emergency response or disaster relief. None of the people working on the ground answer to him directly, so it's not like he can give orders or manage the response. Indeed, there's literally no reason at all to think McCain will be in a position to help recovery efforts in any substantive way.
Yet he gets the press while the prudent Obama, who's actually doing the right thing, gets ignored. There's something deeply wrong with a country that wants more sizzle than steak. There's something pathetic about an electorate that thinks McCain cares more for people than press when it's actually the other way round:
This is a bit of a pattern for McCain. Earlier this year, he showed up for post-flood photo ops in Iowa, even though the Governor asked him not to come and tie up local law enforcement (Senator Obama chose to honor Governor Culver's request).
This is the same man piously spouting the party line about disaster relief. He has a funny way of showing his concern, considering he not only diverts attention from rescue and recovery operations so he can get good press, he voted down Katrina relief efforts.
There's something hellaciously wrong with a country that falls for the "Republicons care!" schtick when the evidence is overwhelming that they only care when it's election time:
As Salon’s Eric Boehlert reminds us, on the eve of George W. Bush’s 2004 re-election bid the Bush Administration had bodies and supplies and other forms of support lined up in advance of the hurricane season in Florida, the state that put Bush over the top in 2000 and one expected to be close again that fall. A year later, once the votes were in, the nation witnessed the Administration’s lagged, pathetic Katrina-style response and the McCain-Bush cake-cutting revelry. Clearly, the Republicans can do a heckuva job when they want to.
Indeed, now that it is election season again, notice the response. First, Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney conveniently use Gustav as a way to avoid St. Paul, and the GOP convention schedule is scaled back; second, John "Country First" McCain rushes to the Gulf Coast. These are the appropriate responses, sure. But more telling are the twin precedents of 2004 and 2005, for they reveal not that the GOP has learned its lesson, but rather that too many Americans have not learned theirs: Republicans respond differently when it is election season.
So, unless we plan to hold elections every fucking year, we'd best not be putting Republicons in charge of the disaster response again.
Don't go for glitter. Go for gold.
Housepainting after Katrina
Filling sandbags in Illinois