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Laura Bush, Cindy McCain Urge Hurricane Aid at RNC

September 1, 2008 at 6:20 PM EDT
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Amid a scaled-back opening day at the Republican convention, First Lady Laura Bush spoke to Texas delegates in St. Paul and Cindy McCain focused the party's attention on Hurricane Gustav relief efforts.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, President Bush canceled his appearance at the convention, but First Lady Laura Bush was in St. Paul today meeting with delegates at their hotels. She spoke to reporters at the Texas delegation’s hotel.

LAURA BUSH, First Lady of the United States: I actually think the delegates really understand. They really do understand. And there’s — you know, some of the states, all five of the Gulf Coast states that are affected — that could be affected by the hurricane or by Hurricane Hanna that’s coming next, are Republican states with Republican governors.

And they’re very aware that those governors now are not going to be able to attend the convention. And so I think people understand and are keeping their eyes on the Gulf Coast to see if there are any ways we can help, either as a party from up here or as just a way to get the word out to the rest of the country because of the convention being here of what we can do to help across the Gulf Coast.

I hope that what comes out of the convention is that people really get to know John McCain. That’s the point, is for him to be able to give his speech for the people of the United States, to see what his policies are, and what his hopes are for our country, and, obviously, to get to know Sarah Palin, because most people don’t know her.

And so I hope that both of those speeches will be able to go on and that people will have the chance to hear both of them, because, after all, that’s what really is important. That’s the most important part of any convention, and that is for the candidates themselves to be able to speak for themselves and let people around the country know what their hopes and goals are for our country.

I think that’s what people are hoping for in this election, not politics as usual. I think that’s what the other side’s promising, but I actually think that’s what John McCain is actually delivering. And I think that’s really important.

JUDY WOODRUFF: The Republicans have canceled plans for an evening session tonight, but they did have a short business session this afternoon. Gwen Ifill is down on the convention floor, where that session has just wrapped up.

Convention turns to relief effort

GWEN IFILL: Hi, Judy. As you can tell, just looking out the skybox, this is -- looks like a convention. It smells like a convention. There are balloons in the aerials up there supposed to fall. But already today's convention business has begun and it's ended.

What they decided to do today was just to meet and pass the committee platform, in which some policy was talked about, but not a lot, to pass Credentials Committee, basically to do the business that would allow them to get this whole convention started right.

And instead of hearing from the whole line-up of politicians they had planned for tonight, with the grand opening ceremonies, they only heard really from two very popular members of their party, Cindy McCain, the future, potential future first lady, and Laura Bush, the current first lady.

But their mission tonight wasn't to talk about politics, not even to talk about their husbands. It was to talk about hurricane relief.

CINDY MCCAIN, Wife of Sen. John McCain: I am so honored and so proud to be standing next to Mrs. Bush. As we work together -- yes.

As we work together to extend our support to relief efforts in the gulf. As each of the Gulf Coast governors just expressed to us, their challenges will continue in the days ahead.

I would ask that each one of us commit to join together to aid those in need as quickly as possible. As John has been saying for the last several days, this is a time when we take off our Republican hats and put on our American hats.

In that spirit, we'd like to ask that you go to a Web site called CauseGreater, or That will allow all of us to aid those who have been affected by Hurricane Gustav.

Although the task of helping the region recover from this disaster is too large for any one individual or organization, together -- together, we can accomplish so much to help those who have been affected. This fund will play an important role in contributing to other relief efforts already under way.

Thank you.

LAURA BUSH: Americans are -- Americans are known for come to the aid of their fellow citizens when crises such as these arise. Today, and in the coming days, let's work together to provide those affected with the means to restore and rebuild their communities.

CINDY MCCAIN: The charities listed on the screen behind us have been identified by each of the Gulf Coast governors to accept donation of funds, clothing, and other necessary and much needed supplies. As you can and as you are willing, please support this important effort. Thank you.

LAURA BUSH: Thank you all, and God bless you.

GWEN IFILL: Now, Judy, in addition to what we just heard from the two first ladies, or would-be first ladies, we also -- they started the session today by asking all the delegates in the hall to text the Red Cross so that they could begin to jumpstart some donations.

They passed out these cards, called -- with "Country First" on the front, which is John McCain's slogan, but also with a lot of places to contact in each state. They say they are consulting every day with all of the governors, all of the Republicans, all five states, and they started phone banks in local hotels here. Volunteers have packed 80,000 care packages to go to the gulf. They very much are focusing on the hurricane situation.

Now, on the other hand, the party officials told us today they also want to get back on schedule, if Gustav allows, tomorrow. They want to hear from Democrat Joe Lieberman, who's supposed to speak here. They are hoping to hear from Rudy Giuliani, the former mayor of New York, and also from Mike Huckabee, the former governor of Arkansas, who also ran for president.

These are people they're hoping to get back on schedule. But for now, it's really up to Gustav. Officials are trying to decide what to do. They're not going to decide until late last night.

And more than anything else, their plan is to consult with their candidate, John McCain. And he makes the ultimate determination about what they consider to be appropriate.