10/03/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

The Uninvited Keynote Speaker at the GOP Convention

Presumptive Republican party presidential candidate John McCain could determine who would be his vice president, but apparently, he has no control over who will be making the memorable keynote address at his convention coronation.

The theme of the GOP Convention "Country First" is in fact the theme of this uninvited speaker who has captured the stage and may turn out to be the equivalent of the Chicago snowstorm 30 years ago in 1979 that shattered Chicago's Machine and opened the doors to a new era of people politics.

Hurricane Gustav was not invited by McCain or his Svengali choreographers like besieged Karl Rove and Vice President Dick Cheney, but it grabbed the microphone this first day of the convention and will probably not let go until it ends.

Gustav's message is one that pierces McCain's "war hero" armor that he has been wearing since he entered the presidential contest, pointing out that it was McCain's party and his ally President George W. Bush who, three years ago August 29, failed to put the "Country First" when Hurricane Katrina rampaged through the South and destroyed a voting base of Democrats, minorities and GOP critics in New Orleans.

Bush, and McCain, failed to act when Katrina struck and destroyed the levies protecting the salad bowl shaped city from flood waters that broke through and flooded.

Katrina was described as the African American's equivalent of 9/11, a terrorist act not in the sense of planning, but in response.

Who can blame nature's wrath on any mortal man or political party and calls that Hurricane Gustav is God's revenge against Bush, and his silent partner John McCain, are outrageous examples of demagoguery.

But, one can certainly blame man and a political party and the president of the United States for not caring and for failing to act responsibly to protect American citizens whom Bush and McCain might have viewed as voting threats to the Republican agenda.

Katrina savaged the Gulf coast of Mississippi, Louisiana, and Alabama. More than 1,600 people were killed, more than 300,000 homes were destroyed and nearly 800,000 people were displaced.

The irony is that Republicans had scheduled their convention to take place immediately after the Democratic Convention, which took place in a week that was calm in terms of natural disasters. The purpose was to tear into any momentum that Senator Barack Obama, who was crowned the Democratic Party presidential nominee at an event better choreographed and more awe-inspiring than the opening of the Olympics in Beijing the two weeks before.

But the tragedy of Hurricane Gustav is defining McCain's political tragedy, maybe a reminder to everyone that McCain is not independent. McCain is not a leader. McCain is a "mini-me" of Bush. McCain was silent when Bush ordered the invasion of Iraq in March 2003, committing billions of dollars into a war that was driven by politics and had nothing to do with the "war on terrorism" or the terrorists attacks of al-Qaeda and Sept. 11, 2001.

Yet two years later, Bush failed to commit a penny to prepare the southern coast and New Orleans from the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, and worse, failed to act until days later when people were swept the brink of destruction and one of the greatest human tragedies the nation had witnessed.
McCain, in the powerful voice of Hurricane Gustav, is being reminded

That he was silent during the invasion of Iraq, and in the face of a levy of lies that have since been shattered, years later, by facts and figures that prove Bush lied intentionally to mislead Americans into believing Iraq was tied to al-Qaeda and Sept. 11.

It's also ironic that in a sense, the terms used to describe New Orleans are also terms used to describe political voting districts.

It was the 9th Ward that took the brunt of Katrina's wrath and it is reverberating in voting wards throughout the political landscape of this country a message that McCain is a "Johnny Come Lately."

Hurricane Gustav was not orchestrated by anyone. It is not God's wrath against the Republican Party and their historic disregard for the rights of human beings of another political color.

But it is a coincidental tragedy that ironically will define the McCain message as he leaves the Republican Convention next week, a devastating force that not even all the resources of the Republican controlled FEMA can prevent.

Clearly, John McCain and his presidential ambitions will be one of the many new tragedies now being defined in Hurricane Gustav's wake.

And I doubt that even prayers to the patron Saint of the convention city, St. Paul, Minnesota, will be able to prevent what could be a political disaster for McCain of hurricane proportions.

-- Ray Hanania