Posts Tagged ‘Gail Collins’

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.

Every time she writes about Romney — and I mean every time — Collins works in a line about the time that Romney “drove to Canada with the family dog strapped to the roof of the station wagon.”

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.”

Daum goes on to say that “the truth is considerably less cartoonish than the myth.” Not only was Seamus in a crate, she said, but Romney had fashioned a windscreen that protected the crate.

“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.

Seamus -- RIP

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The New York Times op-ed page Saturday was a thing of beauty and wonderment.

Beauty because in separate pieces, columnists examined three of the biggest problems America faces: Lack of integrity on Wall Street; the political right’s fixation with Barack Obama’s place of birth and religious affiliation; and many states’ hell-bent determination to bar the doors against reasonable handgun controls.

Wonderment because some of the facts and information contained in the articles were absolutely jaw dropping.


1) Op-ed columnist Gail Collins, who has one of the wickedest wits in the writing business, sarcastically lit into two states — Utah and Arizona — whose legislatures recently spent valuable time naming “official” state weapons. For its part, Utah went with the Browning pistol as its official state firearm. Arizona, meanwhile, bestowed the same honor on the Colt Single-Action Army pistol.


Fighting an uphill battle, on the other hand, was U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg’s push for a bill that would make it more difficult to sell guns to people on the terror watch. Lautenberg’s bill has gone nowhere, Collins reported, stating: “Opponents point out that the terror watch list is not always reliable, and the bill might therefore force innocent Americans to go through an entire additional step while purchasing armaments and explosives.”

Collins went on to note that so far this year no state has passed a law prohibiting colleges from banning guns on campus.

“This is pretty notable,” Collins wrote, bitingly, “since failure to require that institutions of higher learning be gun-friendly is the only thing that stands between some states and a perfect 100 percent rating from the National Rifle Association.”

2) Charles M. Blow compiled key statistics from four recent surveys about Obama’s birthplace and religion. At least 900 people responded to each survey. Blow focused on the answers that people who identified themselves as Republicans provided.


— A New York Times/CBS poll asked respondents if they thought Obama was born in the U.S. or another country. The result: 45 percent of Republican respondents said they believed he was born in another country; 22 percent said they were unsure.

— A Fox News poll asked respondents if they thought Obama was born in the U.S. or not. The result: 37 percent of Republicans said they did not think he was; 16 percent were unsure.

— The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life asked respondents if they thought Obama was Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, atheist, agnostic or something else. The result: 31 percent of Republicans said they thought he was Muslim; 39 percent said they didn’t know.

— A Time magazine poll asked respondents if they believed that Obama was a Muslim or a Christian. The result: 46 percent of Republican respondents said they thought he was Muslim; 24 percent didn’t answer or said they didn’t know.

Blow concluded that the effort by some Republicans, such as Donald Trump, to mine the birthplace and religious affiliation issues is intended to “distract and deceive” voters. Why?

“Because the right’s flimsy fiscal argument — that if we allow fat cats to gorge, crumbs will surely fall — is losing traction” among almost all groups, Blow said, including families strapped by $4-a-gallon gas.

3) In a column titled “The Party’s Over For Buffett,” Joe Nocera derided Warren Buffett’s self-proclaimed commitment to ethical dealings by saying: “For someone who has said repeatedly that he would rather lose money than even a shred of reputation, his actions have been inexplicable.”


He was referring, of course, to the case of Buffett’s trusted aide, David Sokol, who bought $10 million worth of stock in a company (Lubrizol) days before convincing Buffett to buy the company. Buffett disclosed the impropriety but he allowed Sokol to resign — and praised his overall record at Buffett’s firm, Berkshire Hathaway — rather than fire him.

Nocera wrote that what Sokol deserved was “a kick in the rear” instead of “a pat on the back.”

“What moved him,” Nocera wrote of Buffett, “to pre-emptively clear Sokol, who had so clearly violated Berkshire’s code of conduct, of wrongdoing? What does that tell us of possible flaws in Buffett’s character?

Nocera closed by saying that if they’re smart, “Buffett and his shareholders will view this fiasco as a wake-up call.”

Thank you, Gail, Charles and Joe for putting a penetrating spotlight on some facets of contemporary American life that should concern most of us.

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In the wake of the tragedy in Tucson, The New York Times has published several news stories, letters to the editor and Op-Ed columns on the subject of gun control.

I have read most of them and would like to pass on some quotes that grabbed my attention.

Here goes.


U.S. Rep. Peter King, a New York Republican, who has proposed a bill that would outlaw taking a firearm within 1,000 feet of a member of Congress:

“This kind of legislation is very difficult…The fact is Congress has not done any gun legislation in years. Once you get out of the Northeast, guns are a part of daily life.”

U.S. Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, a New York Democrat, who has proposed a bill that would ban large-capacity ammunition magazines, like the one Jared Loughner used:

“This is not a gun control bill. I like to use the word ‘gun safety bills.’ And this one just addresses the narrow issue of these clips.”

McCarthy, again:

“Any kind of bill the N.R.A. is against is always a problem.”

U.S. Rep. Mike Pence, an Indiana Republican:

“I maintain that firearms in the hands of law-abiding citizens makes communities safer, not less safe.”

Erich Pratt, director of communications for Gun Owners of America:

“I think after the November election it’s going to be very tough for Carolyn McCarthy and even the Peter Kings (to get legislation passed). Why should the government be in the business of telling us how we can defend ourselves?

“These politicians need to remember that these rights aren’t given to us by them. They come from God. They are God-given rights. They can’t be infringed or limited in any way. What are they going to do: limit it two or three rounds. Having lots of ammunition is critical, especially if the police are not around and you need to be able to defend yourself against mobs.”

Carol Delaney, professor emerita of cultural and social anthropology at Stanford University, in a letter to the editor:


“Bills have been proposed to allow students and professors to take guns to school. What professor won’t worry about giving failing grades when an angry student can march into his office and shoot him? Is this a civilized society or a resurgence of the Wild West?”

Nicholas D. Kristof, New York Times columnist:

“The only country I’ve seen that is more armed than America is Yemen. Near the town of Sadah, I dropped by a gun market where I was offered grenade launchers, machine guns, antitank mines, and even an anti-aircraft weapon. Yep, an N.R.A. dream! No pesky regulators. Just terrorism and a minor civil war.”

Kristof, again:

Congress on Wednesday echoed with speeches honoring those shot in Tucson. That’s great — but hollow. The best memorial would be to regulate firearms every bit as seriously as we regulate automobiles or toys.”

Gail Collins, New York Times columnist:

“Different parts of the country have very different attitudes about when it is appropriate for citizens to carry guns. There is nothing that would make me feel less safe while shopping than the knowledge that my fellow bargain-hunters were packing heat.”

Collins, again:

“If Loughner had gone to the Safeway carrying a regular pistol, the kind most Americans think of when they think of the right to bear arms, (Gabrielle) Giffords would probably still have been shot and we would still be having that conversation about whether it was sane idea to put her congressional district in the cross hairs of a rifle on the Internet. But we might not have lost a federal judge, a 76-year-old church volunteer, two elderly women, Giffords’ 30-year-old constituent services director and a 9-year-old girl….”

Bob Herbert, New York Times columnist:


“More than 30,000 people die from gunfire every year. Another 66,000 or so are wounded, which means that nearly 100,000 men, women and children are shot in the United States annually. Have we really become so impotent as a society, so pathetically fearful in the face of the extremists, that we can’t even take the most modest of steps to begin curbing this horror?

“Where is the leadership? We know who’s on the side of the gun crazies. Where is the leadership on the side of sanity?

Herbert, again:

“If we were serious, if we really wanted to cut down on the killings, we’d have to do two things. We’d have to radically restrict the availability of guns while at the same time beginning the very hard work of trying to change a culture that glorifies and embraces violence as entertainment and views violence as an appropriate and effective response to the things that bother us.”

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