I hope for the sake of the beleaguered Gulf Coast that this doesn't come to pass -- but from a realpolitik point of view, there is a potential nightmare for the Republican Party swirling around the warm Caribbean waters right now.

His name is Gustav.

I already thought that the Republicans had unintentionally blundered in choosing St. Paul for its convention, first with the echoes of last year's tragic bridge collapse and the Bush administration's neglect of the nation's infrastructure, and then the moral hypocrisy of Larry Craig and his memorial stall.

But if there's anything about the last eight years that the GOP doesn't want to remind voters about, it's the one inarguably unmitigated disaster of this administration, and that is Katrina. The more than 1,400 who died in the floodwaters of New Orleans -- and the administration's dumbfoundingly slow and tepid response -- are a sad permanent memorial to misplaced priorities, not-always-so-benign neglect of the nation's poor, and the foolishness of a vow to shrink government to the size where you can drown it in a bathtub.

So of course a giant new storm may be bearing down on New Orleans right as John McCain prepares to assume the Bushian mantle:

Aug. 26 (Bloomberg) -- Hurricane Gustav is forecast to make landfall later today in Haiti and may enter the Gulf of Mexico, home to more than a fifth of U.S. oil production.
Gustav's sustained winds strengthened to 90 miles (145 kilometers) per hour, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said in an advisory just before 8 a.m. Miami time. The system, located 75 miles south-southeast of the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince, was heading northwest at 9 mph.
``This time next week it will be somewhere in the Gulf,'' said Eric Wilhelm, senior meteorologist at private forecaster AccuWeather Inc. in State College, Pennsylvania. ``All the states lining the Gulf Coast of the U.S. will be on the lookout.''

In addition to the sad echoes of Hurricane Katrina, a hurricane in the Gulf -- and the threat of disruptions -- could send the price of oil and then gasoline at the pump back to the astronomical levels they're reached after eight years of two oilmen in the White House, another bad message for the GOP. If the networks are going to intersperse McCain's nomination with live shots of sandbags along the Mississippi, the party is in big, big trouble.

For one thing, you'll be sure to see this picture again...A LOT: