- The Washington Times - Monday, September 1, 2008

ST. PAUL, Minn. | John McCain” href=”/themes/?Theme=John+McCain” >Sen. John McCain on Sunday canceled most events on the opening day of the Republican National Convention and promised no political rhetoric, taking an unprecedented step as both major political parties scaled back their schedules to allow the Gulf Coast to prepare for Hurricane Gustav.

Three years after Hurricane Katrina brought disaster to New Orleans and political grief to Bush” >President Bush, Mr. McCain, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, said Monday’s session would be cut to about two hours and the schedule for the rest of the week was undecided.

Mr. McCain gives up a full day of valuable public attention, but Republicans said it was the only choice he could make out of respect for those in the hurricane’s path.

“We take off our Republican hats and put on our American hats, and we say, ‘America, we’re with you. America, we’re going to care for these people in their time of need,’” Mr. McCain said in canceling the opening-day speeches, including those of President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney.

Mr. Bush said he would travel to Texas to monitor preparedness procedures, though he wouldn’t visit Louisiana because he didn’t want to disrupt operations where the hurricane was expected to hit.

Democrats canceled protest activities here for Sunday and Monday.

The McCain campaign refused to talk about the political fallout. “We really don’t have the luxury of sort of trying to evaluate the politics of this kind of situation,” said campaign manager Rick Davis.

Convention delegates and political analysts were deeply divided on the implications.

“It is a loss that McCain doesn’t have multiple hours of TV of talented speakers saying great things about him and [vice-presidential candidate Sarah] Palin and warning people about the liberal policies” of Democratic nominee Barack Obama, said Republican lobbyist and former White House aide Ed Rogers.

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