Politics and Dogs
Groucho Marx said, "Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly, and applying the wrong remedies." And he said, "The more I know men, the more I love my dog."
I am fortunate to have not only the continuing love but also insistent advice and overbearing support in the campaign of not just one but two (!) dogs -- Lady Mathilda Ragnhilda Doolittle Hanson, a/k/a "Mathilda, Wonder Dog," who is a nine-and-one-half year old tri-color Australian shepherd, and the new kid on the block, Lady Jane (immortalized in the song "I call her Jane/ Because that's her name") Hanson, who is a black-and-white border collie my lawyer daughter bought for herself last December, a dog who spends as much time as she can with the other members of her extended pack, including me. I'd be telling the truth if I said I am running my own campaign, without the assistance of a professional or even amateur campaign manager, but it wouldn't be the whole truth. Both Mathilda and Jane are "managerial dogs" who have nuzzled and wagged and barked their way into prominent positions in "the campaign."
Some time ago I wrote the following about Mathilda:
Mathilda is not one of those dogs who run away. On the contrary, she not only never leaves you, she never leaves you alone and won't let you run away. She is highly intelligent. I talk to her in complete sentences and she understands what I say. If she could talk, she'd drive you nuts. She watches TV. She likes looking out the window at people walking by the house. She's great at running down tossed balls or flying frisbees and flinging herself into the air to catch them. If asked, she would run a hundred miles a day keeping the geese off the golf course across the street. She's a tough farm animal, but she's also as tender as a lamb (possibly because she eats so much lamb). She'd be a good role model for today's women. She's the best kind of "Bully Broad," a bossy dog who is good at managing others without seeming bossy. When her water bowl is empty, she turns it upside down and sits by it. I fill it gladly, without being told to do it. When we walk around the lake together, beautiful women often comment to me on how beautiful she is. They seem to want to be like her. They wish (dream) they could be walking around the lake with me. :-) Is Mathilda, Wonder Dog the greatest dog in the history of the world? If so -- and there is a growing consensus that indeed she is -- it hasn't gone to her head. She still is quite happy flying coach class in the seat beside her travel companion and has never, not once, complained about airline food.
Mathilda and Jane are both peace-loving dogs who somehow are able to preserve the integrity of the borders they patrol and to protect the people who live within those borders without doing more than barking in a threatening way at the occasional suspicious passerby -- which is not a bad metaphor for a perfectly defensible vision of what America's general posture should be with respect to the rest of the world.
One of my vivid childhood memories, believe it or not, is of watching television with my family at a motor inn in a small town in Maine on the evening of 09.23.1952. I was nine at the time and my mother was a Republican activist who was one of the key players in Minnesota's now-mythic Citizens for Eisenhower write-in campaign in the March 1952 Minnesota Presidential primary, and we were watching Dick Nixon, Ike's running mate, defend himself against allegations relating to receiving allegedly-improper campaign contributions. In the speech, which came to be known in the annals of great political rhetoric as the Checkers Speech, Nixon said in relevant part:
One other thing I probably should tell you, because if I don't they'll probably be saying this about me, too. We did get something, a gift, after the election. A man down in Texas heard Pat on the radio mention the fact that our two youngsters would like to have a dog. And believe it or not, the day before we left on this campaign trip we got a message from Union Station in Baltimore, saying they had a package for us. We went down to get it. You know what it was? It was a little cocker spaniel dog, in a crate that he had sent all the way from Texas, black and white, spotted, and our little girl Tricia, the six year old, named it Checkers. And you know, the kids, like all kids, love the dog, and I just want to say this, right now, that regardless of what they say about it, we're gonna keep it.
In a similar vein, I just want to make it clear that, as far as I'm concerned, my opponent and his surrogates can say anything bad they want about me, but I'd advise them to be careful what they say on TV, because both Mathilda and Jane watch TV obsessively and they won't tolerate anyone slandering the nice guy whose campaign they like to think they're managing.
* * *
Our Nation's Top Dog by Brooke Oberwetter, The American Spectator (08.19.2004).
Presidential Pets (1959-2000), WhiteHouse.Gov.
First Dogs: the Presidents' Best Friends, Smithsonian Magazine (June, 1997).
Election Goes To The Dogs (first Presidential Dog Poll), FreeRepublic.Com (08.27.2004).
Kids Club: Presidential First Dogs, WWW.Senate.Gov.
President Johnson's Dogs, LBJ Library.
Presidential Pets: Then & Now, National Geographic (02.12.2004).
Copyright (c) 2004 by Burton Randall Hanson. Prepared & published by candidate on his own behalf and at his own expense. Candidate may be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Candidate does not solicit or accept contributions or endorsements.