(Usual disclaimer: The deal with the syndicator means this column appears here a week after its newspaper release)
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FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, APRIL 27, 2012
BY BOB FRANKEN
Romney haters, listen up: You’re overplaying the dog-on-the-roof thing. If you’re not careful, there’s going to be a barklash.
That includes Gail Collins of The New York Times, who is one of my favorites in newsbiz. But she’s made such a big deal out of Mitt Romney’s Irish Setter Seamus being strapped on top of the family station wagon, and written about it so often, that it has now gotten tiresome. That’s not the norm for a columnist whose insights are usually refreshing and whose humor is incredibly biting (sorry, I couldn’t resist).
First of all, let’s get something straight: I, too, am a dog nut. My golden retriever pup, Mingus, is a beloved member of the family. I adore him. To me, there’s no greater joy than being around him and his canine buddies. For those who reside in D.C., Harry Truman nailed it when he said, “If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog.” I would add, “If your life includes dogs, who needs other friends?”
That said, we really need to get past the animal test when deciding which human will be leading our country. Rick Perry apparently loves dogs, although you might want to stay away from him if you’re a coyote. Barack Obama seems to get along with the family’s Portuguese water dog, Bo, but those relationships don’t mean a lick compared with the other issues of the race.
Take Seamus’ owner: There are so many other reasons to embrace him or reject him. Now that he seems to have escaped his party’s primary kennel, with all his opponents snapping at his heels, he is working on remarking his turf. His backtracking is the stuff of legend. Once again, he’s rewriting his narrative about what breed of politician he is.
He’s well-bred, of course, a son of privilege, who gets into trouble when he tries to pretend he can relate to common concerns. It’s awkward. He’s obviously barking up the wrong tree. What he reveals is the true nature of his candidacy.
He personifies the power structure and stands for the proposition that “a better America” will result if the rich are unencumbered by regulations and tax policies that stand in the way of their accumulating more wealth. He blames the sour economy on the “failed leadership” of Obama, never mind the current signs of a slow recovery and never mind that the bottom fell out during the administration of fellow Republican George W. Bush. Furthermore, any criticism about financial inequity or unfairness is dismissed by him as “class warfare” or the “politics of envy.”
What’s good about that kind of discussion is that it involves the fundamental points that deserve our attention. Because such issues can get weighty, it’s easy to get distracted by the lighter stuff, particularly when those of us in the media are so willing to jump all over cheap-shot news. By the way, it’s also literally cheaper to cover that kind of sensationalism and trivial fluff.
Be honest, is the scandal over the Secret Service agents and military people consorting with prostitutes worth so much attention? Sure, let’s even concede that the president’s security detail getting caught with its pants down raises significant security concerns. But is it that big a deal? No. It gets so much attention for one reason, of course: S-E-X. We all love to be titillated.
And if we’re not getting our jollies over hookers, we find something else vacuous to overplay. That includes the roof-pup Seamus. If a great number of voters insist on making their decision based on the candidate’s animals, we can literally say that our country is going to the dogs.
I’m guessing, though, that it won’t matter that much, that the story will go away finally because readers and viewers are tired of it. If not, there will eventually be a canine mutiny.
© 2012 Bob Franken