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Republican Convention opens under Gustav shadow

Last updated on: September 02, 2008 12:57 IST

Republicans convened their national convention in St Paul, Minnesota on a subdued note focussing much of their attention on how best they could rally forces to the beleaguered folks of Louisiana and Mississippi affected by Hurricane Gustav.

At the same time, they made sure that some of the legal and technical issues of putting Senator John McCain on the Grand Old Party (GOP) ticket is out of the way.

The opening session was barely for about two-and-a-half hours and one of the first orders of business was the adoption of a party platform, a document that largely sidesteped the national debate about the Iraq War.

"The waging of war, and the achieving of peace, should never be micromanaged in a party platform. In dealing with present conflicts or future crises, our next president must preserve all options," the GOP has maintained.

And unlike the expansive comments the 2004 Platform had on India, this time the Party was succinct and to the point, but did not missed the larger aspects of the bilateral relationship between the United States and India.

"We welcome America's new relationship with India, including the US-India Civil Nuclear Accord. Our common security concerns and shared commitment to political freedom and representative government can be the foundation for an enduring partnership," the Party Platform for 2008 has said.

The first day of the Republican National Convention in Minneapolis was over-shadowed by Hurricane Gustav in Louisiana and the Gulf Coast of the United States, turned out to be a fund-raiser for hurricane relief with First Lady Laura Bush and Cindy McCain, wife of the Republican presidential candidate Senator John McCain, exhorting the delegates and Party faithful gathered at the Xcel Energy Center to open their hearts and wallets to alleviate the lot of those adversely affected.

Louisiana Governor Piyush 'Bobby' Jindal, who was scheduled to speak at the Convention on Wednesday at prime time, decided not to attend but stay back along with several other Gulf Coast Governors in the wake of the impending storm>

Jindal came in for kudos for what is being described as a command performance in preparing and coordinating--in concert with federal and other state agencies and governors--the evacuation and safety of the people of the in the direct line of Gustav.

Texas Governor Rick Perry in a taped message to the Convention delegates while standing in front of a C-130 transport aircraft that belongs to the Texas Air National Guard that was part of the coordinated efforts among the various states, particularly to help out Louisiana, said, "Bobby's doing a fabulous job of coordinating Louisiana and I can promise you one thing that the people of Louisiana ought to be really proud of this governor and what he is doing."

He said, "You are seeing Republican governors in Republican states doing a fabulous job of taking care of its citizens. That's what we do," Perry said.

Before Perry and other governors from
Alabama, Mississippi and Florida came on with their taped messages to the delegates.

Laura Bush substituting for President Bush who cried off along with Vice President Dick Cheney because of Gustav, said, "The effect of Hurricane Gustav is just now being measured. When such events occur, we are reminded that first we are all Americans, and, that our shared American ideals will always transcend political parties and partisanship. We hope that the people on the
Gulf Coast know that the American people are here to do what we can to assist them.

Laura Bush said--while noting that President Bush was visiting the
Emergency Operations Center in Austin, Texas, which is coordinating the efforts among the federal, state and local authorities--"During our time in the White House, we've had the pleasure of getting to know each of the governors from these Gulf Coast states. They are all strong leaders and they were planning to be here with us today. They all also happen to be Republicans."

"But, we know that it is far more important for them to remain in their home states to provide the leadership and the management of the crisis, and I am sure you can understand why Governor Bobby Jindal of
Louisiana could not participate," she said.

Cindy McCain, who came on stage following the taped messages from the governors, said, "I am so honored and so proud to be standing next to Mrs Bush as we work together to extend our support to relief efforts in the Gulf."

McCain said despite Gustav not packing the devastating punch that was predicted, the challenges would continue in the days ahead and said, "I would ask that each one of us commit to join together to aid those in need as quickly as possible."

"As John has been saying for the last several days, this is a time when we take of our Republican hats and put on our American hats."

Bush added: "Americans are known for coming to the aid of their fellow citizens when crises such as these arise. Today, and in the coming days, let's work together to provide those affected with the means to restore and rebuild heir community."

The Republican Convention is also taking place at a time when the McCain-Palin ticket is under tremendous pressure from liberal quarters with news surfacing that Governor Sarah Palin's 17-year-old daughter is five months pregnant and unmarried at that.

But even before this news hit the air waves Laura Bush warned that stepping on sexism by picking on Governor Palin is going to be a risky business.

"Do you think she'll face the sexism from the media and from the general public that the Hillary Clinton people said that they faced?" the First Lady was asked on Fox News.

"Possibly, I think that's a possibility, although I think everyone is going to be particularly careful after - I think the other side particularly, because I think that is something that we all looked at," the First Lady said.

Image: First Lady Laura Bush and Mrs Cindy McCain addressed the opening session of the 2008 Republican National Convention at the Xcel Energy Centre in St Paul, Minnesota. The duo focused on the ongoing relief efforts after hurricane Gustav hit the Gulf Coast States.

Photograph: Paresh Gandhi


Aziz Haniffa in St Paul, Minneapolis