Hurricane Sarah

Reform supporting Republicans aren’t worried about Hurricane Gustav impacting their party’s convention for several reasons, not the least of which is that they look forward to Louisiana Republican Governor Bobby Jindal providing the nation with a stark contrast between his administration’s competence and the incompetence of his Democratic predecessor.

Public perception about the disaster that was Katrina has been much like the cartoon portrayed about the Iraq War: President George W. Bush’s racism caused him not to care about the poor people who perished when that hurricane hit three years ago. Likewise, President Bush lied about Iraq and people died.

Faulty public perception has been the bane of a lot of our politics for many years, and some of us have been open about laying much of the blame for that problem at the feet of Republican leadership. The fact that Hurricane Sarah reached the mainland a few days before Gustav, however, promises to begin helping Reform Republicans get the upper hand they’ve been looking for to help clear up a lot of confusion fostered by Democrats and the mainstream media.

The perception has too often been that the Republican Party is the party of rich white men. The reality is the GOP base knows better and is thrilled about John McCain choosing Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as his running mate.

From watching the news the past few days it’s more than obvious that the Democrats are very concerned about the power of the first woman on the Republican’s national ticket. The truth is, though, the potential for her category five candidacy is a threat to a lot of the Republican Party’s old guard as well.

Despite what they might say, guys like Illinois Republican Party Chairman Andy McKenna, former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert, and former Illinois National Committeeman Robert Kjellander (just to name three) do not view Sarah Palin as the kind of Republican they’d want to see rise to national leadership. Those men, as well as many others in our state’s leadership, haven’t done a darn thing to support the cause of real reform in the Illinois GOP like Palin did in Alaska.

The Republican Renaissance we’ve been pushing is exemplified in the career of Governor Palin. An Associated Press story the other day included this line about Palin:

“Palin has built her political career in large measure by taking on fellow Republicans.”

As you can tell from our postings of the past few days, our enthusiasm almost knows no bounds.

Palin was taking on old guard Republicans even before she was elected governor. In fact, she was so sick of the incompetence and corruption that she challenged the incumbent Republican Governor and won. Nothing is so unattractive to the McKennas, Hasterts, and Kjellanders then someone who holds leaders of their own party to a higher standard.

So as Gustav approaches the gulf coast, Reform Republicans pray for the best but prepare for the worst. The night and day difference between Mississippi Republican Governor Haley Barbour’s handling of Katrina, by the way, never got the attention it deserved. And the historic failures of both Democratic Mayor of New Orleans and Governor of Louisiana were pretty much ignored as the media scapegoated President Bush.

Reform Republicans (RRs) are about competence and professionalism, not cronyism and trying to get elected as “Democrat-lite.” RRs know the difference between perception and reality. And RRs understand that there is no more important responsibility of a leader than making sure public perception reflects reality.

Politics is the art of the possible, the cliché goes. For too long, unfortunately, the GOP has been dominated by people who don’t understand that art. Sarah Palin promises to be the antidote to that poison.

Perception v. Reality examples are all around us.

The perception is that giving Congress and the Presidency over to liberal Democrats will bring change, when the reality is that President George W. Bush and Speaker Dennis Hastert’s biggest domestic policy failures (big spending and the expansion of government) was right out of the liberal Democratic playbook.

The perception is that President George W. Bush lied about weapons of mass destruction and went to war for oil, while the reality is that there was strong bipartisan support in Congress for an October 2002 resolution authorizing force where 23 reasons were listed for removing Saddam Hussein from power.

The perception is that the Iraq War was the worst thing that has ever happened to this country. The reality is that anyone who knows the slightest bit of American history understands that war is hell. Previous leaders have made many more costly mistakes of judgment then President Bush and his team.

The perception is that Barack Obama is a reformer, when the reality is he rose through the ranks of a corrupt political system in Illinois and never objected to any of it.

The perception is that Barack Obama has a lot of experience, when the reality is his 140 days on the job in the U.S. Senate isn’t much better than his eight years as a state legislator. Anyone who pays attention knows the Illinois General Assembly isn’t a serious institution.

The perception is that government control is the solution to health care and education, when the reality is that hiring and empowering more bureaucrats is the surest way to keep positive changes from taking place.

People are saying that John McCain has taken the “experience” issue off the table with his pick of Governor Sarah Palin. The truth is Republicans are more than ready to compare the record of accomplishments of their Vice Presidential nominee with that of the Democrat’s Presidential nominee.

Hurricane Gustav and Sarah Palin are opportunities to draw contrasts and clear up misperceptions. Both will accomplish that with or without a four day convention.

©2008 John Francis Biver