The Widening Gyre: Mere Anarchy in Minnesota?

RNC Day 1:

With eyes turned to St. Paul for the RNC's wind-tossed convention, has chaos ensued for the Republicans? Or are things under control? I know the news first in the hearts and minds of many are the circumstances surrounding Gov. Sarah Palin's upcoming entry into the blissful post of... Grandma. We'll get to that in a minute. But first, we'll look at the news from the streets of St. Paul where chaos has really erupted.

Over the weekend police raided potential protesters' residences and rallying points in the St. Paul area, cuffing people as they searched their homes and confiscated computers and notebooks among other things. Monday, police arrested around 300 people out of the estimated 10,000 that had taken to the streets -- in both sanctioned and unsanctioned protest actions. Several reporters were arrested as well and apparently sustained minor injuries -- including Democracy Now!'s Amy Goodman and two of her colleagues. (Read and watch here.) AP photographer Matt Rourke also was arrested.

The Minnesota National Guard are in the streets as well; pepper spray and tear gas were flying, batons and tasers in use -- and splinter protesters smashed windows and tried to block roads. (An on-the-scene story here.)

And the convention hasn't really started. The Republicans are running a stripped-down event in deference to Hurricane Gustav. Last night involved a presentation by Laura Bush and Cindy McCain and some fundraising efforts for Gustav relief.

But most of the news right now is, of course, V.P.-nominee Sarah Palin's teenage daughter's pregnancy -- and the host of bizarre rumors of scandal and cover-up that have accompanied that revelation. History seems to show that such revelations matter less in the polls than the reactions to them -- like George McGovern's backing then dumping Tom Eagleton in '72 after revelations of his history of mental illness; like the crusade against Bill Clinton, not for committing lewd acts in the Oval Office but rather for lying about them. My sense is the Republican machine is historically much better at handling/taking advantage of such issues. After all, Nixon won by a landslide with Vietnam still raging -- even after the Watergate story broke.

So, what will happen here? Will this reflect more on Palin's qualities or on McCain's sometimes impulsive judgment? Will Republicans accept this as a humanizing tale of real-life American hardship and familial love and support as many have said? Or will the circumstances -- and serious questions about Palin's roles in more political intrigue, including an ethics probe -- send the GOP bid for the White House into tailspin?

Sen. Obama came out with a strong statement declaring candidates' lives and those of their children way off limits and said the focus needs to remain on politics. He told the press to lay off these stories. But the discussion continues everywhere else. It's too juicy to ignore.

But for those quick to cheer each new rumor or revelation about Alaska's governor as leading towards a sure victory for Dems, you must ask how this could play out. Right-leaning America has an historical view of the press as holding a lefty bias -- so they and others might be inclined to see coverage of these alleged scandals simply as further evidence of bias and unscrupulousness and forgive the acts themselves. In that case, these scandals could galvanize the GOP and their self-termed 'maverick' ticket -- or at least prove a non-factor. Those reactions have already come out -- notably from Nicolle Wallace, a top McCain adviser, who blamed the "Democratic bloggers" for hate-peddling.

Anyway, here's the re-arranged schedule for the convention today:

President George W. Bush (via satellite)

First Lady Laura Bush

U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman (Conn.)

Former U.S. Sen. Fred Thompson (Tenn.)

U.S. House Republican Leader John Boehner (Ohio)

U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman (Minn.)

U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann (Minn.)

Robert M. "Mike" Duncan, Chairman of the Republican National Committee

Jo Ann Davidson, Co-Chairman of the Republican National Committee and Chairman of the 2008 Republican National Convention Committee on Arrangements

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