Sunday, April 12, 2009

Et tu, Barack?

I was really disappointed to hear on This Week with George Stephanopoulos that President Obama decided to get his kids a dog from a breeder after all. Well, sort of at any rate.

The dog - who will apparently be named "Bo", in a tip to Michelle's dad, whose name was Diddley - is a gift from Sen. Ted Kennedy. Senator Kennedy owns several Portuguese water dogs himself. By all accounts, he's delighted to make the gift. (Understandable; who wouldn't be?)

The first family has been searching for a dog for a number of months now, ever since President Obama promised one to his kids during his campaign. But... as most people who read this blog will also likely remember... the President further promised - on national TV no less - to get a dog from a shelter.

The family had apparently narrowed its search to Portuguese water dogs because they are good with kids and relatively hypo-allergenic as fur-bearing mammals go; two characteristics important to the Obamas as Sasha and Malia are both children and Malia has allergies.

I realize that there probably are not a lot of Portuguese water dogs coming through DC-area shelters on a regular basis. I realize the search can be lengthy and frustrating. But please.

Here's a guy with basically unlimited resources. (And, mind you, not because Congress ought to allocate taxpayers' TARP money to the search.) The first family has unlimited resources to find a Portuguese water dog because every shelter in the U.S. knew that the Obamas were looking for one. My guess is... and I'm just guessing here... that all of these shelters have phones. I would further venture to guess that any of them would not have hesitated to call the White House if they had a matching dog. (And who knows, maybe they did?) The idea that not a single shelter in the U.S. had a Portuguese water dog - or at least some other kid-friendly, hypo-allergenic dog - available for adoption is even harder for me to visualize than the roughly $14 trillion dollars in debt this nation is about to assume in the coming months.

Supposedly the Obamas made a donation to the D.C. Humane Society instead. Well, that's nice. But so much for leading by example. (Actually, sorta reminds me of medieval Catholicism when sinners believed they could buy their way back into favor with the Lord.)

And while I'm venting, the Obamas' decision is not the only disappointing thing here.

The commentary that their decision generated on This Week with George Stephanopoulos also fell rather short. According to Newt Gingrich: "Who cares?" While, I must admit, Rep. Gingrich has an extremely good grip on an impressive array of political and national events (although I disagree now with his philosophy on perpetual tax cuts as the lynchpin panacea to cure the economic crisis as much as I disagreed with his views on tort reform some 15 years ago), it is disappointing, (although not surprising), to hear that concern for pet overpopulation - or, more broadly, the larger issue of animal welfare to which it speaks - is still apparently not a core Republican value.

More disappointingly, however, was the joking and dismissive tone of the show's host. The few minutes that Mr. Stephanopoulos allocated to the discussion was painfully, clearly lip service. It was capped off by his conversation-ending statement that it was time to move onto "important" issues.

I do not disagree that the other topics the panel discussed were important. But it was disappointing to see this topic tossed off so casually. (On a related but separate note, I was very encouraged this week to see the decisions of the Iowa Supreme Court [who would've thought?!!?] and the Vermont legislature in upholding gay marriage. I view gay rights advances as sort of a bell-weather for animal rights...)

And if nothing else, it was surprising to see this distinguished panel of commentators let the President off so easily for breaking a promise. It's still so easy to disregard animal issues that no one even connected the dots to a larger picture.

What other promise is next?


Luella said...

Who cares?! Isn't that some sort of intellectually immature fallacy of appeals to popularity meaning, "I don't care, and no one else who matters does either"? I often think that politicians need to go back to daycare. After all, virtually all of them still drink some mother's milk. It's pretty scary (understatement). Like that talk show host who sat their whining with all his fellow "adults" about how much he "hates kids." Yeah. So mature.

I love your comment about the medieval Catholics. '"...a serious symbolic note" to their original pledge to get a shelter animal.' Huh? How do you add a "serious symbolic note" to a broken pledge??? Unless the note was to say, "Oops, I broke it."

I'm really not as cynical as this comment makes me sound. I think Obama is a great guy. But still a medieval Catholic. :p Unfortunately, I don't think we're going to get much out of him with respect to animals in the next eight years. The national movement just isn't big enough to get his attention. Plus, Obama "likes meat, and he will not lie."

Speaking of Obama, he is coming to speak at my university tomorrow, so I might get to see him and hold up a sign saying, "Obama, why do you eat cows, but not dogs?"

Of course, then all of my non-vegan classmates will probably glare at me and steal my sign. :D

dogfather said...

Amy -- I agree with the direction of your entry. Per your comment about no PWDs likely being available, however, a thirty-second search turned up 14 (count-em) on, including a young-un in the DC area, to wit:

I am afraid our guy screwed the pooch(es) on this one, and my indulgence of that decision can't be bought. The bully pulpit effect would've meant new life for hundreds of shelter pups.

Chris said...

I'm pretty disappointed. As someone with a "quasi rescue" dog myself, I can somewhat sympathize with Obama here. However, a couple of things really bother me about this (and one possibility that somewhat excuses Obama).

Issue 1: Access. I whole-heartedly agree with you that Obama could have easily found a hypo-allergenic dog at a shelter. I'd be surprised if the HSUS or any other organization didn't already call him with options. Furthermore, all it would take is a phone call to HSUS to get a suitable dog ready at a nearby shelter for a photo op or something.

Issue 2: Class. Is it just me or does the whole pure-breed breeder thing wreak of Yuppie-ism?

Issue 3: Education. One of the great powers of the presidency is just the power to call attention to certain problems. Even though I ended up with a quasi-rescue myself, no one cared about my adventure. Obama could've raised a lot of awareness.

Issue 4: Was it REALLY a quasi-rescue dog? I'm skeptical that the dog was really a quasi-rescue. Both the breeder and Kennedy are big Obama fans, and it just seems possible that this dog may have been meant for Obama all along, or that strings were pulled, etc.

Issue 5: Was it a gift? I wonder how Kennedy broached this topic with Obama. Its possible that Kennedy retrieved the dog, trained it, and then TOLD Obama that he was giving it to him. This could've created an awkward social situation where Obama would have had to TURN DOWN a gift (which is considered very impolite).

pamela said...

Right, when a dying senior Senator, who broke ranks and endorsed you just when your campaign needed a boost, offers you a dog, you say "No."

People, he had no choice on this one. I wish it had gone differently, but let's move on to the next opportunity. Let's please remember that we only have so much political will to work with.

Also - I'm not sure I agree that gay rights are a bellwether. Californians, who voted for two propositions at opposite ends of the spectrum, might beg to differ.

dogfather said...

And Pamela -- you know that's how it happened? Because it all seemed too staged, pat and neatly tied with a uh, Bo. My bullshit meter hasn't exactly been redlining, but it's certainly been a-twitchin'. And I love the guy -- most of the time.