Poor Mitt Romney! He's been assailed for a number of things, including flipping and flopping all over the place on health care, abortion and a host of other issues. But now he has to deal with a real ankle biter: the saga of his former dog Seamus. Romney's biggest problem in the election, the Washington Post suggests today, on the front page no less, is his less-than benevolent treatment of his old pooch.
It seems that Romney strapped the poor beast's kennel to the roof of his car in as he and his brood headed on a twelve-hour trip to Ontario in the summer of 1983. Ever the frugal manager, Romney figured out how he could make the trip and save fuel with just one rest stop. For whatever reason, his plan also included elevating Seamus to the roof of the car, as New York Times columnist Gail Collins has tirelessly pointed out (fifty times, according to the Washington Post's count). The plan went somewhat awry when Seamus registered his dissent by defecating over the back window. By all reports, however, Romney responded calmly, hosing off the car and continuing on his trip.
Evidence of Romney's bad judgment in putting Seamus on the roof in the first place? Or a sign that he's a good crisis manager, unflappable, resourceful, ready to deal with the unexpected? Needless to say, dog lovers (a rather large constituency) are having none of it. They tend to see Romney's behavior as evidence of something deeper, more malignant than a mild character flaw. A man who could do that, they suggest, is capable of anything. Even Dick Cheney never did anything like that (at least as far as we know). The Romney camp pooh-poohs, if I may use the word, the flap. If this is the wost that can be said about their man, then have at him seems to be the response of his advisers.
Romney should probably make a clean breast of the affair. The most he could tell the Wall Street Journal was, "Love my dog." Well, yes. That should go without saying. But there does seem to be something awfully clinical about his behavior. He needs a better response. Dogs, after all, can play a pivotal role in presidential politics. Think of Richard Nixon and Checkers. Absent Checkers, Nixon's political career would most likely have come to an abrupt terminus. Romney should know better than to try and avoid the issue of his behavior. Politics is a dog-eat-dog world. For now, it looks as though Romney will be hounded by this issue in coming months.