All of the news on CNN this morning was about Hurricane Isaac. On NBC, too. And Fox News, for the most part. Yes, the storm has already screwed the Republican convention in so very many ways. But here today, in (sunny!) Tampa, as journalists stream into our media holding pen like so many wayward Katrina refugees, comes the final indignity: this pseudoevent threatens to be completely upstaged by a real event.
Isaac nears. Now is the time to panic.
Not for the people in New Orleans—for Republican media planners. Boy. You guys are getting fucked, haha. I mean, look, there's nothing like a potential natural disaster followed by a legitimate human catastrophe to make all of us sitting around here in hotels in Tampa bloviating about "optics" look like a bunch of dicks. The original fear was simply that this storm would force Mitt Romney to "alter his message" and maybe make it a little uncomfortable for him to unleash all his sweet personal attacks without looking slightly non-statesmanlike. Now, though, as the cable networks switch into HURRICANE mode and the morning shows put on their concerned faces and all the news headlines get rearranged, there is a real possibility that people will just not pay attention to this convention.
Which is, of course, what everyone should do at convention time, but given a normal news cycle with no humongo stories, the media industrial complex will always expand convention coverage to fill as much time as possible, because, look, we gotta give you people some shit to talk about every day, whether there's really anything to talk about every day or not. The real victims of this storm will not be the Louisiana refugees displaced from their homes; the real victims will be all of us, the foolish journalists who dutifully streamed into Tampa for what we all knew in advance would be a completely artificial non-event, and who now find ourselves stranded here, in the Floridian dead zone, forced to talk about Will Ann Romney's Personality Connect With Undecided Female Voters, as actual news happens just a little ways up the Gulf Coast. This morning, all of us in the press corps trudged through a downtown Tampa that resembles nothing more than post-Katrina New Orleans without the floods: empty streets, blocked-off underpasses manned by gun-toting National Guardsmen, and legions of glaring sheriff's officers scanning the sunburned crowd as we're forced through narrow fenced-in holding pens.
Sorry, America. We didn't know something real would happen. Do not forsake us. We have empty statements on the record from Republican spokespersons! We have shallow interviews with party functionaries! We have political analysis consisting of whatever pops into our heads first thing on a hungover morning! I saw Charlie Rose walking in this morning. Charlie Rose! Live from Tampa! Must see TV! Tune in—we beg you!
At least the Katrina refugees got their own trailers. All we get are small shared workspaces and free lattes. Pray for us.