If a politician can’t talk about dogs without sounding slightly deranged, what hope does he have? The crude familiarity in the way L.B.J. made a spectacle of himself with his dogs—the ear incident occurred when he was displaying them to the press—was shocking, but slightly mesmerizing, an echo of the way he used to bully and cajole legislators, and sometimes undermine himself. They also reveal an element of self-aggrandizement: one of the dogs was named Little Beagle Johnson. The demand for a pet-based normalcy test has since been ritualized, in tiresome but necessary rituals like books by or addressed to Millie, Socks, and their ilk. Obama seems to know what he’s doing with Bo, but there are lapses; was it necessary to put rabbit ears on him?
That is why the political dogs for the ages are not necessarily the most loved, but the ones that have been used most effectively as makers of points or diffusers of scandal. The touchstones here are Checkers and his more magnificent predecessor, Murray the Outlaw of Falahill, better known as Fala.
- Amy Davidson on Romney, and the political effectiveness of Presidential pups: http://nyr.kr/A4lddg