GOP Delegates Make Most of Hiatus
Hurricane Gustav may have snatched attention away from the Republican National Convention Monday.
But delegates took advantage of the unexpected hiatus to focus on John McCain's surprise vice presidential running mate choice and on hurricane relief.
Do Shaver, of Seven Lakes, one of two Moore County delegates to the convention in St. Paul, Minn., was elated about McCain's selection of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate.
"I think she's absolutely perfect," Shaver said.
In a telephone interview Tuesday morning, Shaver called Palin an excellent complement to McCain's extensive qualifications for the presidency. She is nonmilitary and young and, best of all, in Shaver's view, Palin is not a Washington insider.
As governor of Alaska, she is not a member of Congress and thus is not regarded as a federal government insider accustomed to the ins and outs of congressional machinations and bureaucratic red tape.
Shaver likes that.
"She can see things in a new light," she said.
Dr. Jim Taylor, of Southern Pines, the other delegate from Moore County, was likewise undeterred by the convention changes on Monday. He agreed with Shaver that Palin has great appeal as a political outsider.
He said he sees her as someone who can keep lobbyists at arm's length and can work to curb corruption in government, as she has done in Alaska.
"I feel very good about her," Taylor said, although he added that he needs to learn more about her.
Shaver admitted that the choice did come as a complete surprise to everyone, but recalled that Palin's name had arisen earlier when possible running mates were being considered by McCain and his advisers.
As for the revelation that Palin's 17-year-old daughter is five months pregnant, Shaver said this is a family matter and should have no bearing on campaign strategy. She added that the girl's decision to have the baby and to marry the father is in keeping with the pro-life plank in the GOP platform.
Taylor called the daughter's pregnancy "a personal thing and a nonissue" as far as the presidential campaign is concerned. He also sees the daughter's behavior as indicative of the mother's influence on her integrity.
"Gov. Palin raised her daughter not to abort her baby and to take full responsibility for her personal actions," Taylor said.
Focus on Hurricane Relief
Although most ceremonial activities were canceled Monday because of the hurricane, Shaver said that delegates did get some necessary housekeeping work handled. Delegates convened for about 90 minutes, dealt with credentials and resolutions, and held some committee meetings.
But appearances by McCain, Palin, President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney were canceled because of Hurricane Gustaf, with most of them focusing their attention on New Orleans and other areas affected by the hurricane or working elsewhere on relief efforts. It was a major effort to make sure there was no repeat of the disastrous response to Hurricane Katrina three years ago.
As for the absence of Bush and Cheney on Monday, Taylor said he didn't think many delegates were really disappointed. In fact, he said most delegates think it is better for McCain's candidacy if Bush and Cheney keep their distance.
"Most people weren't all that disappointed that Bush wasn't there," he said. "I think there was a sigh of relief."
Bush traveled to the New Orleans area Monday to check out the hurricane area, and McCain was in Ohio helping local groups to pack relief packages for storm victims.
Instead of partying Monday, Shaver said that delegates organized efforts to provide assistance to hurricane victims.
Everyone was asked to "pull out our cell phones and send text messages" to the Gulf Coast, she reported. Delegates were asked to make a donation of at least $5 apiece to help victims of Hurricane Gustav, which hit New Orleans and other points along the Gulf Coast early Monday.
In addition, freshly printed cards were distributed providing information about disaster relief efforts in each state. This enabled delegates to secure information and send help through appropriate state agencies.
Despite their distance from the hurricane scene, video presentations from the storm area were shown during the convention and delegates heard reports from governors of the affected states.
One bright spot on Monday was the appearance of First Lady Laura Bush and Cindy McCain, wife of the presidential candidate, who briefly addressed the convention. The women asked delegates to shed their partisan politics for the time being and to provide assistance to hurricane-damaged areas.
Checking Out St. Pau l
Taylor said the change in the schedule offered delegates an opportunity to participate in other activities and to relax. He said he spent some of the free time to walk around St. Paul and to discuss issues with protesters lined up outside the convention area.
"Some of the protests were really significant," Taylor said in a telephone interview.
Taylor, who is an anesthesiologist, said he observed two anti-war groups, one of which was composed of veterans who oppose the war in Iraq.
Unfortunately, the local police took a heavy-handed approach that -- in Taylor's opinion -- backfired and resulted in incidents of illegal behavior, including vandalism. He said police were outfitted in full riot gear, equipped with heavy firearms and pepper spray, and this appearance was intimidating and apparently triggered violent response in a few places.
"I was happy to talk with them," Taylor said. "They were just trying to get their message out and wanted to do it peacefully, but the police used pepper spray and had been very aggressive."
Supporters of Congressman Ron Paul were also demonstrating outside the Xcel Center, but both Shaver and Taylor said they were calm and reasonable. Their problem centered on the absence of the Texas congressman on the speaking schedule of the convention. However, other presidential candidates who dropped out of the campaign were scheduled to speak at various times during the convention.
Also in his stroll along the streets of St. Paul, he was impressed with the friendliness and kindness of local residents. Instead of merely giving directions, some residents actually walked with him to the place he was seeking, and one person offered him a ride.
"The local folks were so nice and open and friendly," he said. "They really go the extra mile there to show hospitality in St. Paul."
Taylor said he also used the spare time on Monday to learn more about the "Campaign for Liberty," a conservative GOP movement to the right with guidance from such diverse quarters as Ron Paul and Barry Goldwater Jr. A Sunday event attracted an attendance of 600, and other activities were held Monday. A Rally for the Republic followed on Tuesday. The initial "Campaign for Liberty" emphasis is on educating others about this program, he said.
"This has been a great time for me," Taylor said. He said the convention is enabling him to learn more about the party and is providing tools for continued service.
Noting that St. Paul has a "free speech" area, where the public can speak on any subject of interest to anyone willing to gather and listen, Taylor said he might just take advantage of that opportunity after the convention ends.
The convention was expected to return to its regular schedule Tuesday. The convention will close Thursday night after McCain delivers his acceptance address.
Contact Florence Gilkeson at 947-4962 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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