Down on the waterfront, 80 km/h winds are whipping the palms. The storm, the outer edge of Hurricane Dolly, rages for an hour and then abates as one arm of the conflagration sweeps past, with another following an hour later. Further south, on the border, Port Isobel and Brownsville are getting hit by the full force level two centre of the thing. It’s no Katrina — at Port Isobel, the surfers have already returned to the waves — but it’s pulling metal off the roofs, and throwing trash down the street.

Your correspondent, hearing that the weather might get interesting, either north or south, flipped a coin, jumped on a bus north, as Dolly headed south. So to speak.

Bad luck, but it doesn’t compare to the impact Dolly has had on John McCain. Looking for an opportunity to sharpen the difference between Grandpa and Young Jesus Obama on the issue of offshore drilling, team McCain had lined up a visit to an oil-rig. Great visuals, metal everywhere, grimy workers, everyone covered in the black stuff.

Trouble was, the visit had been arranged for this week, and the rig was off the coast of Louisiana. As the US Navy and Air Force moved destroyers and planes out of the Gulf — an aircraft carrier is still bobbing in Corpus Christi harbour — and the whole oil industry shut down, it became clear that the proposed visit had turned into another disaster. Why? Well, the principal objection to offshore drilling, and one currently pooh-poohed by the pro-drilling crowd, has been the risk of a coastal environmental disaster from a … hurricane.

Poor old John. The bloke can’t take a trick at the moment. But worse, the political bad weather seems to be affecting the judgment of both McCain himself and his staff. The most visible sign of desperation has been the usual one — the campaign is starting to attack the press.

Hot on the heels of a statement assailing the media for being “in love with” Obama, team Mac issued joke press passes to its beleaguered corps, nominating them as the “JV squad” — the reserves. On the obverse side, the same card was rendered in French, with a pic of a stock Frenchman, a reference to …well God knows exactly what, but a lot of time and energy that could have been best placed elsewhere went into it.

The “blame the press” shtick looks even worse than usual, because it was McCain that goaded Obama into taking the Iraq trip in the first place, and his media courtiers who then talked up the possibility that Obama would fall apart, and get jammed up on his alleged errors in Iraq policy. The press would have gone along en masse in any case, but the thing was so hyped that it made it look like McCain had wanted them to.

The whole fuss generated a classic remark from former Bush speechwriter David (“Axis of Evil”) Frum: “I don’t know why everyone says Obama is so fascinating, John McCain’s a historic figure, he’s the oldest candidate for President ever” which is a lay down misere for the most ridiculous comment ever.

McCain has most of the evangelical vote, but if you were a believer in an interventionist God, you would have to be wondering whether Obama isn’t receiving the gift of providence, a candidate ordained to deliver the US from the failure of its decadent ruling class. By this theory, the wildly improbable rise of a half-Kenyan raised in Indonesia to the highest office in the land could only come because God thinks that the only person who can save the country is someone who is essentially outside of it, and not bound by its suffocatingly neurotic self-regard, and endless self-reassurance.

But God realises that we are slow on the uptake, and that he can’t afford to be subtle — so while the providential candidate VISITS JERUSALEM, GOD DESTROYS HIS OPPONENT’S CAMPAIGN SCHEDULE WITH A HURRICANE. If you’ve got a better explanation for this week past, I’d be happy to hear it.

Meanwhile the storm is whipping through the beachfront towers of Corpus Christi, body of Christ. Something I never knew happened: the wind carried sound for miles and six floors up, I can hear conversations on the street, and music from a bar half a mile away. Fragmentary, coming and going and fighting the furious static of fast air, it is as if the whole city is talking to itself, and listening.

Peter Fray

Inoculate yourself against the spin

Get Crikey for just $1 a week and protect yourself against news that goes viral.

If you haven’t joined us yet, subscribe today to get your first 12 weeks for $12 and get the journalism you need to navigate the spin.

Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey