A few testy gallons of ink have been spilled over the past few days over what was supposed to be a small, character-building anecdote during a Boston Globe profile of Mitt Romney. Not since Lyndon Johnson drop-kicked an innocent bloodhound into the Mekong has the mistreatment of a canine caused such a political stir.
Romney, sometime Massachusetts governor and Presidential contender, was asked for an example of his crisis management style. Instead of saying something along the lines of “I helped a troubled Salt Lake City Olympics committee overcome scandal” or “I ushered through a large-scale engineering project in my state through a fiscal crisis,” he decided that the best course of action was to retell a delightful tale about how, during a family vacation to Canada in the early 1980’s, he strapped the family’s Irish Setter to the top of the car. Then, when the animal unexpectedly got nervous about traveling atop a large metal canister at 55 mph in a small plasticish cage and responded by leaking brown disgustingness all over the back window, Elder Statesmen and Future President Mitt Romney pulled over, took a garden hose, sprayed off the dog, car, and cage, replaced the poor mutt back in his canister, and all individuals went upon the remainder of their trip, presumably canine-diarrhea-free.
Not all that surprisingly, animal rights activists and, well, most human beings reacted with a range of emotions going from “general head-shaking” to “comparing it to the Holocaust.” Also, not surprisingly, many of the other presidential contenders were asked about their own relationships with pets. Perhaps remarkably, many of the other candidates have no compunctions about detailing their stories, and subsequently a lot of skeletons were drug out, dusted off, and put proudly on display.
Before he lost nearly 110 pounds, Mike Huckabee kept a steady supply of rats in his Little Rock governor’s mansion to guarantee a fresh supply of milk for his daily breakfast of twenty-four pancakes, eighteen sausage links, and a colonic.
John Edwards bravely saved a warren of rabbits from being subjected to cruel cosmetic trials by volunteering himself instead.
When house training a beagle, Rudy Giuliani used a then-untested method of corrective conditioning, mostly rewarding the dog with corned beef hash when he was good, and shoving a broom handle repeatedly up its anus when he was bad. Then came 9/11.
While interred in a POW camp in Vietnam, Arizona senator John McCain had to eat a greyhound to keep himself from starving. In his defense, it was #4, no MSG, on the menu.
Bill Richardson owns a Chihuahua, which currently is the only evidence available that he is actually of Hispanic origin.
Hillary Clinton distrusted husband Bill’s dog, Buddy, as a diversion in attention to their marriage. She arranged the White House Travel Office, the Rose Law Firm, and Susan McDougal to have Buddy hit by a car to combat the ever-growing threat of the vast right-wing conspiracy.
On the very day that he descended from the heavens, Barack Obama healed two groundhogs, four dogs, and a leprous tabby.
Fred Thompson used to be responsible for taking Annie Parisse out for her daily walk on the set of Law & Order.
On his regular trips to Fantastica, Dennis Kucinich rides atop a snow white unicorn accompanied by a band of musical changelings.
Wesley Clark has keeps a stable full of stalking horses, which are owned by the Clintons.
Ron Paul regularly establishes cockfight rings, proclaiming it to be an educational display of the concept of “survival of the fittest.”
Joe Biden keeps a parrot. Big surprise.
Every fortnight for the past thirty years, Newt Gingrich holds a ritual deep in the woods of Arlington where a half dozen virgin white mishas are sacrificed to Alvin Toffler.
Dick Cheney often drinks the blood of fawns for lunch, usually mixed with a quart of Valvoline.
While on a promotional tour for An Inconvenient Truth in Antarctica, Al Gore married a puffin in a moment of ecologically orgasmic weakness. The marriage was later annulled on advice from his advisor.
Sam Brownback refuses to believe that calico cats exist.
While some may dismiss all of this as unimportant distractions from the real issues, it’s not exactly a secret that character counts during elections. People want to know the human side of a candidate and, in the case of Rudy Giuliani, whether there is actually at least a human side. People voted for George W. Bush not because of his stance on the estate tax or abortion, but because he seemed like a regular guy that would not be out of place sitting in your living room, watching the football game, and not being able to figure out the proper way to swallow a pretzel without passing out. Bill Clinton’s ability to feel our pain wasn’t just a throwaway political cliché, but a genuine ability to build rapport with people by making everyone in the room feel like he was looking them right in the eye, pressing firmly on their hand in a comforting manner and slowly moving his hand up the small of your back looking for the clasp.
Though when it comes down to it, perhaps Romney’s so-called gaffe was a well-placed advantage to his campaign. By declaring the experience he has with hosing down feces, psychological manipulation, and emotionless crisis management, he’s establishing himself as the person best able to handle Gitmo.