ST. PAUL -- It's amazing, isn't it, how those who claim to be rising above politics can suddenly start to sound as if they're campaigning as hard as ever? That's what happened in St. Paul's Xcel Energy Center during the shortened session of the Republican Convention that was held here this afternoon.
There was some official business, formalities that had to be done away with. But the real show of the afternoon began with First Lady Laura Bush, who was there to apologize for her husband's absence and talk up his efforts and the efforts of the governors of states affected by or taking in refugees from Hurricane Gustav. Of course, all those governors, as Bush herself noted, just "happen to be Republicans."
Bush was followed by videos made by all the relevant governors, except Louisiana's Bobby Jindal. Leading off was Texas Gov. Rick Perry, George W. Bush's successor, who made sure to laud "Republican governors in Republican states taking fabulous care of the citizens." Similarly, Perry's counterparts, without using the "R" word specifically, always talked up how well the federal government was doing in responding to this hurricane. (Obviously, the response itself has political overtones, given the black mark on the Bush administration's record from Hurricane Katrina.)
After the videos, Laura Bush came back onstage, joined this time by Cindy McCain, who encouraged delegates to visit a new Web site, CauseGreater.com, to donate money to those affected by Gustav. The site just happens to prominently display a message -- "Country First: Serving A Cause Greater Than Self" -- that's only a slight variation of one the McCain campaign has been pushing for months. It also features a link to John McCain's own campaign Web site.
Just as some of us in the Salon contingent here were asking ourselves whether anyone could possibly fall for this, the answer came from a colleague who's watching TV elsewhere: MSNBC's Chris Matthews has bitten hard on this message, swallowing it hook, line and sinker. "People like to see politicians doing their jobs," Matthews said, praising the GOP to the skies for for adapting the convention to a time of "national threat" and "national need."