Of course, McCain's selection of Sarah Palin as his vice-presidential candidate immediately blew the Democrats off the front pages and out of the headlines - as it was intended to do. Was it a brilliant, maverick move, or a massive blunder? As an Obama supporter, I'm hoping it turns out to be the latter. But, even more, as someone who wishes America well, my main reaction is that McCain's choice is an irresponsible and dangerous gesture. For an ageing candidate, not in the best of health, to choose a running mate with no experience of national politics and little interest in international affairs, at a time when the nation is at war, smacks of putting partisan politics before the national interest. 'Country first'? You must be joking. McCain's 'judgement' in foreign affairs was surely the only reason why some on the anti-totalitarian left were tempted to support him. But this decision, coming after Obama's selection of Biden, surely neutralises that argument.
Now Hurricane Gustav is threatening to disrupt the Republican convention. Already Bush and Cheney have withdrawn, presumably to the huge relief of the McCain campaign. We wait to see whether McCain and Palin's journey to the disaster zone (Obama has chosen not to visit, for fear he might get in the way of the evacuation effort) provides a chance for them to demonstrate leadership, or further evidence of a tendency to play cynical partisan politics at a time of national crisis.