So we at LI have been especially fascinated by Mitt Romney’s new appeal to the right: torturing the family dog. American politics is about character. In the liberal midst of the sixties, the character desired combined some mixture of tolerance and leadership. The tolerance was of your average sit com type, where Dad put up with the crazy neighbors with a fistful of one-liners. The leadership consisted of giving the American populace a joy ride every two or three years, bombing here, invading there, all in good fun. Foreign corpses are not anything to get too excited about, and don’t we love shock and awe!
But in these dire days after 9/11 changed everything, we want something more. Something stronger. We want someone with both the courage to keep his mind in a state as permanently empty as our own, but at the same time someone who knows that old norms just won’t do – you can’t tear down the remnants of civilization if you are unwilling to break some eggs…
Or torture the family dog! Luckily, the GOP has come up with a man for this historic occasion: Governor Romney. As LI reader’s probably know, Romney told the following story to the Boston Globe (yes, they told it to the Globe. They used this story to illustrate Romney’s character to the Globe. The Romneys are evidently proud of this story):
“The white Chevy station wagon with the wood paneling was overstuffed with suitcases, supplies, and sons when Mitt Romney climbed behind the wheel to begin the annual 12-hour family trek from Boston to Ontario.
As with most ventures in his life, he had left little to chance, mapping out the route and planning each stop. The destination for this journey in the summer of 1983 was his parents' cottage on the Canadian shores of Lake Huron. Romney would be returning to the place of his most cherished childhood memories.
Even for someone who had always idolized his father, the similarities between his path in life and the one George Romney had cut before him were remarkable. Husband to his high school sweetheart, father to a brood of young children, bishop of his local Mormon church, and businessman on the threshold of life-altering success.
If anything, 36-year-old Mitt, who had just been tapped to lead a new venture capital firm, was on track to achieve more at a younger age than his famously overachieving father.
His father had known poverty as a child, Mitt only privilege. His father had succeeded without a college degree while Mitt was launched with the finest educational pedigree. Given all his advantages, Mitt seemed restless to make his mark sooner.
Before beginning the drive, Mitt Romney put Seamus, the family's hulking Irish setter, in a dog carrier and attached it to the station wagon's roof rack. He'd built a windshield for the carrier, to make the ride more comfortable for the dog.
Then Romney put his boys on notice: H
e would be making predetermined stops for gas, and that was it.
The ride was largely what you'd expect with five brothers, ages 13 and under, packed into a wagon they called the ''white whale.''
As the oldest son, Tagg Romney commandeered the way-back of the wagon, keeping his eyes fixed out the rear window, where he glimpsed the first sign of trouble. ''Dad!'' he yelled. ''Gross!'' A brown liquid was dripping down the back window, payback from an Irish setter who'd been riding on the roof in the wind for hours.
As the rest of the boys joined in the howls of disgust, Romney coolly pulled off the highway and into a service station. There, he borrowed a hose, washed down Seamus and the car, then hopped back onto the highway. It was a tiny preview of a trait he would grow famous for in business: emotion-free crisis management.”
The moronic inferno can find so much to love in this story. The privileged son of a famous father – does it strike a chord in your hearts, reader? And of course, having packed up all that luggage, you just have to take the family dog, Seamus. Oh, sure, you could have left him behind, but blissful days of electroshocking him, beating him with sticks, chaining him up with no food for days on end – all the things your regular family would do – would be left on hiatus. Emotion free crisis management called out for a solution, and solution was found.
I give a lot of credit to Anna Marie Cox for picking out the blatant weirdness in this story. The one time I interviewed Cox, when she was doing the Wonkette gig, I did not come away impressed. But she has become a lot more impressive since she’s been working at Time. For one thing, she has perfected the combination of political satire and the drunk act. It used to make American audiences howl to watch a comedian pretend to be drunk – it became part of Dean Martin’s stock in trade, for instance – but PC put the keebosh on funny while stoned. I’m glad to see it is making a comeback. Cox’s Time gig comes with a lot of limelight, and she did the right thing here:
“Ingrid Newkirk, president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, was less circumspect. PETA does not have a position on Romney's candidacy per se, but Newkirk called the incident "a lesson in cruelty that was ... wrong for [his children] to witness...Thinking of the wind, the weather, the speed, the vulnerability, the isolation on the roof, it is commonsense that any dog who's under extreme stress might show that stress by losing control of his bowels: that alone should have been sufficient indication that the dog was, basically, being tortured." Romney, of course, has expressed support for the use of "enhanced interrogation" techniques when it comes to terrorists; his campaign refused to comment about the treatment of his dog.”
The inevitable pushback has been as interesting, as the Bush base wrote heartfelt paens to the joys of torturing dogs. The most common theme is how dogs do enjoy the wind – they stick their heads out of the window when they are in stuffy cars. They are put in the back of pick up trucks. The first line of reasoning is cute – if dogs enjoy, say, drinking water, there is nothing they would like more than to be immersed in water for ten or twelve hours. The second line of reasoning is pretty unfair to Southern good old boys, who do like dogs. They like them enough not to put them into the back of a truck and zoom at seventy miles down a highway for ten hours with the dog taking the consequences.
Our favorite defense was that given in a comment by Anne Althouse, the GOP narcissist:
“How about the way they transport horses and cattle? It's not very pleasant, but we don't regard it with outrage. I'm sure some excrement emerges in the process.
Also, dogs like to stick their head out of the car and maximize the wind flow, so it's anthropomorphic to assume the dog hated it. I really don't think shit is that eloquent.”
Dogs, cattle, what the fuck difference does it make? I was surprised at Althouse’s putdown of shit, however, considering what she normally fills her site with. All this time I thought she thought she was being eloquent.
However, even among a 27 percent that lusts for tales of putting electrodes to Muslim genitalia, Romney’s valiant attempt to torture Seamus looks like it hasn’t had quite the desired effect. In the end, the ghost of Seamus might sink the ambitions of this awful, awful man. What do you know? There is a bit, a small small bit, of civilization left in these here states!