So there I
was on Labor Day, in my hammock, reading a Harry Bosch detective novel
and listening to a countdown of the summer hits of the '50s, '60s and
'70s on WROR-FM.
I looked up now and then to watch the cat stalking the groundhog who was
eating the clover that has replaced our lawn, as well as the birds at
the feeders and birdbath. None of the stalkees seemed especially
I was looking forward to a cookout when Chip got back from sailing. It
was a perfect day.
But wait! Why is Chip home so early? He jumped from the car, yelling at
me to get out of the hammock.
Didn't I know there was a hurricane about to hit Louisiana again? How
could he enjoy his boat, how could I enjoy my book, when disaster might
strike some fellow Americans at any moment? We needed to suspend
enjoyment and ... do what? Drive to New Orleans and stack sandbags?
No, actually, Chip was home early because the wind outside Salem Harbor
was gusting too much for his little sailboat. So he came home to fire up
the grill for salmon cakes from Rowand's, and was calling to me to make
Life and the holiday went on, here and over most of the United States,
except, of course, at the Republican National Convention, which was
suspended so delegates ... could drive to New Orleans and stack
sandbags? No, actually, they just put off the process of choosing the
Leader of the Free World and did some fundraising for the Red Cross,
which was nice.
But the important thing, apparently, was not to appear to be having a
good time while disaster struck their fellow Americans.
I'm not sure why this strikes me as either annoying or amusing.
Certainly President Bush, VP Cheney, the governors and congressmen from
the potentially affected Gulf states had to be working on hurricane
response instead of being in the Twin Cities. Delegates from those
states did well to stay home if they could assist evacuees.
But why couldn't politicians and delegates from, say, Maine to
Washington state, continue with the business of the convention just as
the rest of us continued with our cookouts?
Of course if things went terribly wrong again in New Orleans, people
across the country would focus on finding ways to help just as they did
the last time. Fortunately, this time government officials did a good
job of preparation and evacuation, and Hurricane Gustav didn't hit
So was I hearing as I wrote this that the Republicans weren't sure
McCain would speak on Thursday night?
Was it because Hurricane Hanna was headed for the East Coast, followed
by Ike? Will there be a tornado, a wildfire, or plague of locusts
somewhere in the nation? Let's just cancel the convention and have the
candidates for president and vice president give a speech sometime when
its convenient for everyone — and make this a permanent cancellation for
both Republicans and Democrats. Do we really need these extravaganzas to
choose our leaders?
It occurs to me that if delegates just quietly met, listened to a few
speakers, enjoyed each other's company without chanting, waving things
and wearing funny clothes, then they wouldn't ever have to worry about
the perception that Republicans were fiddling while something burned
Ah, now I see what was bothering me: The pandering to perception.
We all know that the party leaders were less worried about New Orleans
than the perception that they weren't worried about New Orleans.
Meanwhile the rest of us kept an eye on the Weather Channel, especially
if we had friends or relatives in the path, but went on with our
enjoyable weekend. Why can't partisan politicos be normal?
And of course the Democratic leaders were caught on tape joking that
"God must be on our side" because He sent a storm to spoil the
Republican Party's party.
Here's a slogan: "Democrats smirked while Gustav lurked."
In fact, Massachusetts Democrats, including our governor and lieutenant
governor, happily partied last week while word leaked out back home that
our state is in fiscal crisis, again. The State House News Service
reported last Thursday that "Gov. Deval Patrick and Democratic
legislative leaders will find a deteriorating budget mess when they
return from the Democratic National Convention in Denver ... (including
the) potential need for approximately $1 billion in budgetary
Did you see any of the Bay State Democrats rushing back to avoid the
perception that they were fiddling instead of doing their actual jobs of
running our commonwealth?
Unlike the hurricane, which wasn't caused by Republicans no matter what
Al Gore says, the state fiscal crisis is caused by irresponsible
behavior on the part of our government leaders.
The Democrats here pass clearly unbalanced budgets, refuse to do
necessary reforms, and buy more fiddles, while the economy on which many
people depend is threatened.
Never mind. Regardless of the coming fiscal crisis and tax hikes here,
the national disasters there, and political perceptions everywhere, I
think I am going to really enjoy this election season. Hope you do too.