I want to preface this piece by saying I’m no fan of Mitt Romney. In fact, I think he’s the most opportunistic and malleable of the candidates for the Republican nomination for President.
He will say just about anything to get elected, which, fortunately, probably isn’t going to happen. President Obama is the only candidate on either side who is consistently logical and reasonable when he opens his mouth. Plus, Romney probably won’t get the vote of a single black person.
Like most people, I enjoy humor at the expense of some of the gaffes that politicians make, but I don’t like cheap shots. Especially cheap shots that are fashioned into a running joke.
And that’s exactly what liberal columnist Gail Collins of The New York Times is guilty of. Collins is often funny, and I look forward to her columns, but she has gone way overboard on the subject of Romney and a nearly 30-year-old incident involving his family’s Irish setter, now deceased.
When I first read it, sometime last year, I was horrified. With subsequent references, however, I started wanting more details. A few months ago, I sent an e-mail to Collins, asking her if the dog was strapped bodily to the car or if he was in a crate. If he was in a crate, I asked, was he protected from the wind?
A few weeks later, Collins wrote back, saying that the dog was in a crate and protected from the wind, but she noted that the dog must have been in distress because he got diarrhea during the trip.
A week or so after my e-mail, Collins included the first and only reference I have seen her make to the dog having been in a crate. Thereafter, it was back to the dog being strapped to the roof.
Take these recent references in Collins columns, for example:
Jan. 12: There is nothing Gingrich won’t do to get Mitt. At the end of the video, there’s a clip of Romney speaking French! And now Newt’s Web site has a video that basically asks whether America will elect a president who once drove to Canada with the family dog strapped to the roof of the car. Which is, of course, an excellent question.
Jan. 5: Did I ever mention that Romney once drove to Canada with the family Irish setter strapped to the roof of the car? The dog’s name was Seamus. New Hampshire Republicans, if you can’t think of anybody to vote for on Tuesday, consider writing in the name Seamus when you go to the polls. Maybe we can start a boomlet.
Dec. 15: …the odds are very good that no one has ever called Mitt zany in his entire life. Unless it was when he drove to Canada with the family dog strapped to the roof of the station wagon.
Dec. 1: And maybe we could get over his driving to Canada with the family dog strapped to the roof of the car if he’d just admit it was because he was too cheap to hire a dog-sitter. Maybe.
That’s at least four mentions in the last six weeks. In my opinion that’s beating a dead horse.
And the horse doesn’t deserve to be beaten. Here’s why…
Los Angeles Times columnist Meghan Daum did some reporting on the Seamus situation recently and, in a Dec. 29, column set the record straight, doing so deftly and humorously, without taking a sledgehammer to Collins.
Daum’s column begins:
“In 1983, a 36-year-old Romney and his wife and five young boys piled into the family station wagon for a 12-hour drive from Boston to Lake Huron in Canada. As was the custom, Seamus, their Irish setter, rode in a crate strapped to the top of the car.
“Somewhere along the way, the dog began to experience, shall we say, digestive trouble that made its presence known via, uh, streaks on the back windshield. Ever the efficiency enforcer, Romney pulled into a gas station, hosed the dog off, put him back on the roof and continued the trip.
“The anecdote was first relayed in a Boston Globe article in 2007, the last time Romney ran for the Republican presidential nomination. Since then, it’s endured a long telephone game of exaggerations and misconstruels. (Gail Collins likes to write about it in her New York Times column.)
“Many versions of the story imply that the dog was not in a crate but rather tethered to the luggage rack in the manner of a silent movie damsel tied to railroad tracks. Others seem to conflate it with the scene in National Lampoon’s Vacation…in which Chevy Chase inadvertently (and supposedly hilariously) drags a dog to its death after forgetting to untie it from the car after a picnic.”
“Look,” Daum continued, “I’m not suggesting that Seamus’ rides on the roof were ecstatic journeys akin to Snoopy piloting his doghouse in the spirit of the Red Baron. But let’s try to think objectively. Assuming his car sickness was an isolated event, would Seamus really have been better off crammed into a station wagon with seven humans than up top in a secure, enclosed crate with a windscreen? Moreover, if Seamus had been, say, a Texas dog in the back of a pickup, as opposed to a Massachusetts dog on top of a car, would anyone have batted an eye?”
Excellent observations, especially about the Texas dog in the back of a truck. For example, if George W. Bush drove across Texas with his dog (if he still has one) in the bed of the pickup, would anyone other than a card-carrying SPCA member voice concern?
In conclusion, Daum suggests it’s time to give Romney a break on his idea of proper pet transportation.
“Sure, his judgment may have been lacking when it came to canine transportation,” she said, “but if this is the extent of his personal baggage, he’s been traveling light.”
That’s for sure.