Kirk: Politics set aside at RNC |

Kirk: Politics set aside at RNC

Tom Kirk (cq), a prisoner of war in Vietnam for five and a half years, shared a cell with Republican presidential nominee John McCain. He was photographed in his home in Vail, CO, June 20, 2008. (JUDY DEHAAS/ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS)

VAIL, Colorado ” A subdued atmosphere prevailed Monday at the Republican National Convention in Minnesota’s Twin Cities, said Tom Kirk, the only delegate from Eagle County.

The convention was scaled back as Hurricane Gustav neared the Gulf Coast.

“As Americans always do in situations like this, we put the concern for our fellow persons, fellow Americans, first,” said Kirk, 79, of West Vail.

The evening was supposed to include speeches from President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, but those talks were canceled.

Instead, the delegates were discussing “administrative” items such as the party platforms and campaigning, Kirk said. First lady Laura Bush and Cindy McCain spoke about disaster relief efforts.

“Politics have been basically set aside until such a time as we know what will be the result of the hurricane,” Kirk said.

Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain spent Monday at a relief center in Waterville, Ohio.

On Monday morning at the convention, Kirk spoke to the Colorado and Oklahoma delegations as part of a “caucus team” that included Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr., Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne and U.S. Rep. Heather Wilson of New Mexico.

Kirk spoke about the time he served with McCain in a prisoner of war camp in Vietnam. Kirk, a retired Air Force colonel who was a POW from 1967 through 1973, said he came to know McCain’s high integrity, honor, character and intellect during that time.

The delegates in Minnesota are excited about the selection of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as McCain’s running mate, Kirk said.

“They see her as a maverick, just like John McCain is,” Kirk said. “She’s a real fighter, and she’s pro-energy, pro-drilling everywhere, and she’s a real hard-nosed person who cuts through the B.S. and gets to the issues.”

Kirk spoke to the Vail Daily shortly before Palin announced that her unwed, teenage daughter is pregnant. Palin’s announcement was the other focus ” besides Hurricane Gustav ” of media coverage on Monday.

On day one, there was certainly not the celebratory atmosphere that one might expect at the convention, Kirk said.

“We don’t want to be thinking of having a good time and enjoying a party up here when people in the Mississippi coast area are suffering,” he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Staff Writer Edward Stoner can be reached at 748-2929 or

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