ST. PAUL, Minn. — Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainOvernight Defense: GOP lawmaker takes unannounced trip to Syria | Taliban leader pens New York Times op-ed on peace talks | Cheney blasts paper for publishing op-ed GOP lawmaker makes unannounced trip to northeastern Syria Meghan McCain after Gaetz says Trump should pardon Roger Stone: 'Oh come on' MORE’s (R-Ariz.) decision to suspend Republican convention activities and turn attention to helping people along the Gulf Coast deal with the potentially destructive effects of Hurricane Gustav is the right thing to do. In doing so, he not only avoids the incongruous image of fat cats partying it up while others suffer, but he shows that he puts his country ahead of his party. He has seized this crisis as an opportunity to demonstrate, rather than just talk about, his leadership abilities.

Hurricane Gustav also gives President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney a perfect excuse for avoiding the convention, where their presence might be less than welcome. Both the president and the vice president have suffered in the polls of late, and could only harm the Republicans’ chances of swaying voters who are disappointed in their leadership if they were to show up to the convention.

Furthermore, the Bush administration took a serious blow to its credibility in the aftermath of the government’s mishandling of relief efforts leading up to and after Hurricane Katrina. Many blamed the situation on a lack of competence in the leadership at FEMA, whose administrator was not a professional disaster relief expert, but a political appointee. Whether the media’s characterization was correct or not, the impression that the administration cared more about politics than the well-being of American citizens has been hard to erase.

Sen. McCain is asking Americans to elect him to the office because he will put the country first. In turning attention to the people suffering from Hurricane Gustav, McCain puts his money where his mouth is. It doesn’t hurt that avoiding an appearance by the current administration at the convention helps him deflect Democrats’ assertions that he is merely offering more of the same.

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