In 2005, Hurricane Katrina not only devastated the city of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast region, but also proved to be a political disaster for President Bush and other key politicians because the government failed to adequately prepare for the storm and, as a result, thousands of people were killed or displaced.
When Hurricane Gustav approached the same region, presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain made sure that they would not be accused as being as cavalier toward the situation as Bush. Among other measures, Obama sent text messages to supporters urging them to donate to the Red Cross, while McCain changed the opening night of the Republican National Convention from the typical celebration to a push to get supporters to donate.
Although Obama and McCain claim that they are trying to help Americans who are being affected by Gustav, it seems as if their actions are simply ploys to help their respective campaigns. If the Republicans had kept to their same convention schedule, would it have meant any less aid for the victims of the hurricane? Probably not. Meanwhile, Obama has scaled back his campaign appearances and has cancelled events in order to promote donating to the Red Cross. Will this actually get people to donate money toward the Red Cross rather than donating money to a political campaign? Again, probably not.
Instead it seems as if the candidates are taking Gustav as an opportunity to earn compassion votes, especially considering that Gustav has not been anywhere near as devastating as Katrina was. Even though the hurricane has calmed down to a tropical storm, it still seems to be at the forefront for Obama on the campaign trail and McCain at his convention in Minneapolis.
What voters should remember is this: Of course Barack Obama and John McCain both want to help victims of Hurricane Gustav equally; that should be a non-issue. Voters cannot let the relief efforts of the candidates blind them to the more perennial issues on which the candidates hold differing viewpoints. Those are the points that should guide voters' decisions in November.