Opinion

Bernd Debusmann

America’s election has gone to the dogs

By Bernd Debusmann
April 30, 2012

America’s electorate is sliced, diced and analyzed in minute detail, but there’s one comparative poll yet to be conducted: What is worse in the eyes of voters, having eaten dog meat or having put the family dog in a crate on the roof of a car for 12 hours?

This is not a trifling question in a country with close to 80 million pet dogs, whose owners treat them as family members and might be disinclined to give their votes to a candidate perceived as a dog eater, in the case of President Barack Obama, or a dog abuser, in the case of his presumptive Republican rival for the presidency, Mitt Romney.

The crated dog on the roof, an Irish setter named Seamus, has dogged Romney on and off ever since the story came to light in 2007. Obama’s dog-eating is a recent addition to the ever-growing catalog of anecdotes collected by Republican and Democratic activists and campaign operatives to paint the other side’s candidate in the darkest possible colors.

The dog stories have legs, so to say, and are likely to stay part of the election campaign until it finally ends on November 6. To refresh the memories of those who might have followed the campaign for weightier topics – high unemployment, say, or the war in Afghanistan – here is a recapitulation of what happened so far.

While Seamus rode atop the Romney family station wagon on the way to a vacation in Canada, the dog was struck by a bout of diarrhea that resulted in fecal matter running down the windows. Romney pulled up at a gasoline station, hosed down the car, the crate and the dog, and continued on his way. That was in 1983, but the story was revived in the Republican primary campaign when one of Romney’s rivals said it pointed to character flaws.

President Obama’s involvement in the canine aspects of the campaign stems from a passage in his 1995 memoir Dreams From My Father (Chapter 2, page 37) that recounted how he was “introduced to dog meat (tough), snake meat (tougher) and roasted grasshopper (crunchy)” by his Indonesian stepfather, Lolo Soetero. Obama lived in Djakarta between the ages of six and 10.

Jim Treacher, a conservative blogger for the website The Daily Caller, came across that passage and published it on April 17 as an antidote to the potentially damaging effect of Romney’s dog-on-the-roof episode. “Say what you want about Romney,” Treacher wrote, “but at least he only put a dog on the roof of his car, not the roof of his mouth. And whenever you (liberals) bring up the one, we’re going to bring up the other.”

The dog wars were on.

PIT BULL WITH SOY SAUCE

Aides to Obama and Romney traded jocular tweets about their bosses’ attitudes toward dogs for days until the president himself took up the issue at the April 28 White House Correspondents’ dinner, an occasion presidents traditionally use to mock themselves (and others). Riffing off a famous sound bite from Sarah Palin, Republican candidate for vice president in 2008, Obama asked: “What’s the difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull? A pit bull is delicious.” Particularly with soy sauce.

Obama also showed a mock Republican attack contrasting the rivals’ competing vision of an American dog’s life after the November elections. Under Obama: “dogs forced into government-controlled automobiles.” Under Romney: a dog’s “freedom to feel the wind in his fur.” The ad’s final shot shows Romney standing in front of Air Force One, a Boeing 747. Strapped to the aircraft’s roof: a dog kennel.

For some pundits, the whole dog debate shows that the election campaign has sunk to new lows. “One does wonder what the rest of the world must think of us? Is this what happens to old democracies? Are we too silly to be taken seriously anymore?” asked Kathleen Parker, a conservative columnist.

Probably not. It’s a safe bet that parts of the world would welcome a dose of politics interlaced with the kind of levity that, now and then, accompanies the political discourse in the United States.

As to the yet-to-be-conducted missing survey on dog-eating vs dog-on-the-roof: there actually is a poll on the relative dog friendliness of Romney and Obama. But it was conducted before the president’s culinary adventures in Indonesia became a topic of such fascination that a Google search for “Obama and dog-eating” yields 43 million hits. (“Romney and dog” yields just 28 million).

In March, Public Policy Polling, a Democratic polling company, asked 900 voters who they thought would be a better president for dogs. Thirty-seven percent opted for Obama and 21 percent for Romney. Thirty-five percent said learning of Seamus’ rooftop trip had made them less likely to vote for Romney.

That result practically guarantees that the dog issue will stay alive. Entertainment for some, silliness for others.

Comments
2 comments so far | RSS Comments RSS

The poignant aspect of this is that Obama is so effective as a speaker, and so ineffective as a leader. Good jokes, lousy delivery.

Posted by ARJTurgot2 | Report as abusive
 

Yet another “morally confused” or clueless trollz insisting that white is black and black is white; blaming Prez Obama for GOP misdeeds and legislative inaction and being a major part of the ‘our problems while refusing to consider any Democratic legislative solution.

I have seen a noticeable uptick in critical political blog postings that indicate more voters/posters are willing to speak out and oppose and refute the GOP political propaganda and smears.

What is even more encouraging is that the majority of those posts are rational, support statements with links or factual data and cite sources and dates with background information AND spelled correctly; well using the MS dictionary and arcane syntax. I’ve become bored with posts filled with misspelled, single syllable words, vituperative, off subject rants, epithet and smear filled, absurd and false accusations based on something they thought they heard Russ or Sean say and their rebuttals are the equivalent of “YOUR MOTHER WEARS COMBAT BOOTS” OR YOUR DAD TAKES SHOWERS DAILY; OR LIKE NONSENSE.
The election is 6 months away and ugly is going to get much UGLIER before then.

Posted by JBltn | Report as abusive
 

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