Jewish World Review April 20, 2012/ 28 Nissan, 5772
Man Bites Dog
By Roger Simon
So when Erik Mouthaan, the U.S. bureau chief and senior correspondent for RTL Dutch TV, came to my office the other day to interview me (in English, thank goodness) and did his intro in Dutch for his viewers in the Netherlands, I caught only one word: "absurditeit."
Which is Dutch for "absurdity."
It was a good starting point, Mouthaan decided, to begin explaining part of America's 2012 presidential election campaign to non-Americans.
I found it hard to disagree.
After all, while non-Americans can certainly understand American interest with the economy, the war in Afghanistan, jobs and the environment, they might have a bit more of a struggle placing Seamus the dog in perspective.
Seamus the dog is a story, to use an old newspaper term, that "has feet." And not just four of them.
David Letterman has not only done innumerable jokes about Seamus, but very seriously said on the air on Feb. 16: "As a president, you want a guy who makes good decisions. Putting your dog on the roof of your car ... is not a good idea. That's it. End of story. I don't care about anything else."
In case you have been on extended submarine duty beneath the polar ice cap and have missed the story, in 1983 Mitt Romney put the family Irish setter, Seamus, atop the family car in a dog carrier for a 12-hour trip to Canada. Seamus did his "business" down the side of the car, streaking the windows, at which point Romney calmly pulled into a gas station, hosed Seamus down and then resumed the trip.
New York Times columnist Gail Collins has written about Seamus numerous times, and Romney critics believe the episode demonstrates Romney's robotic lack of human emotion.
Fox News' Chris Wallace said to Romney: "I have a yellow Lab named Winston. I would no sooner put him in a kennel on the roof of my car than I would one of my children. Question: 'What were you thinking?'"
Romney claimed that Seamus "climbed up there regularly, enjoyed himself. ... It was where he was comfortable."
Which led one unidentified top Democrat to tell Jake Tapper of ABC News, "When Seamus crapped all over the car, I'm fairly certain he wasn't expressing pleasure."
According to the Humane Society of the United States, 39 percent of U.S. households own a dog and 28 percent own two dogs. Some 62 percent of all households in America have a pet of some kind and are expected to spend nearly $53 billion on them this year.
The treatment of Seamus remains so worrisome to the Romney campaign that Ann Romney was compelled to say just the other day that Seamus "loved" being up in that carrier during that trip.
But when Fred Malek, a big-time Republican powerbroker, who once tracked down Jews for Richard Nixon, recently held a fundraising birthday party for Ann Romney, websites revived a 2006 story from The Washington Post that revealed that Malek, at age 22, was one of five men arrested in Peoria, Ill., for beating a dog to death and barbecuing it.
Malek said he was drunk, took no active part in the killing or barbecuing and was in no shape to stop the events from happening. Charges against him were later dropped when one of the accused men said he acted alone.
Brad Bannon, spokesman for the Super PAC "Mitt is Mean," said, "I am surprised Gov. Romney is going to go to this fundraiser and get money from a guy who barbecued a dog, especially with Mitt Romney's history with dogs."
And that's where things stood until Tuesday night, when the Daily Caller website reprinted the following excerpt from Barack Obama's book, "Dreams From My Father":
"With Lolo (Obama's Indonesian stepfather), I learned how to eat small green chili peppers raw with dinner (plenty of rice), and, away from the dinner table, I was introduced to dog meat (tough), snake meat (tougher) and roasted grasshopper (crunchy)."
"Say what you want about Romney," Jim Treacher of the Daily Caller wrote, "but at least he only put a dog on the roof of his car, not the roof of his mouth."
On Jan. 30, David Axelrod, the Obama campaign's top political strategist, had tweeted a picture of President Obama lovingly transporting the family dog, Bo, in back of the presidential limousine, with the comment, "How loving owners transport their dogs."
Last night, in view of Obama's book, Eric Fehrnstrom, a senior adviser to Mitt Romney, struck back with the tweet: "In hindsight, a chilling photo." Translation: Obama is just fattening up Bo for a midnight snack.
Twitter lit up with funny, semi-funny and not-so-funny rejoinders, the best of which probably was: "Q. So, Mr. President, where shall we go to eat? A. I know a great Spot."
So what would you tell a foreign visitor? That all this is part of the glorious absurdity, boisterousness and vitality of the American democratic process?
Or would you just say, "The Budweiser tour starts in five minutes."
Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in Washington and in the media consider "must reading." Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.
© 2009, Creators Syndicate