Mitt Romney's Seamus problem | Bleader

Mitt Romney's Seamus problem


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  • Ordinary Guy
In a 2007 Boston Globe profile, Neil Swidey introduced the world to Seamus, the Romney family dog, by way of an anecdote about Mitt, the Romney family patriarch, strapping the pooch to the top of the car for a 12-hour ride from Boston to Ontario. (In a canine carrier, mind you. Tricked out with a little windshield!) The nominal punch line is that the dog defecated wetly on top of the car while the Romney clan drove it down the highway, but this is one of those rare instances in which shit doesn’t necessarily make the story funnier—which is to say that it’s the sort of anecdote that begins with a grown man strapping a dog to the top of a station wagon. Or, as Gail Collins recently put it in an online chat with David Brooks, “Dog on the roof of the car. Dog on the roof of the car.” Gail Collins is obsessed with this story. She’s cited it, says Swidey, in more than 30 columns.

In a recent piece in the Boston Globe (via Jim Romenesko), Swidey says that he’s tried to stay away from retelling the anecdote. He thinks that the media is overconcerned with the story: he reported it during the last election cycle, he notes, and “here we are, once again, watching the media and blogosphere—even the sober Wall Street Journal—fixate on Romney’s treatment of his dog nearly three decades ago.” Why? Swidey thinks it’s because other parts of the candidate’s bio—Mormonism, finance—seem so obscure to large swaths of the electorate. And because, as a candidate, Romney’s got a bit of a “Stepford husband” feel to him. "The more Romney’s handlers try to control his environment and prevent him from going off script, the more people will hunt for flashes of unscripted behavior," Swidey writes.

Does this story work to humanize the candidate? For some reason it calls to mind, for me, the father in A Christmas Story. There's a guy who would strap a dog to a car—wouldn’t he? All these Republican candidates need what little color they can get. And so we—the public, the media, the Internet—are giving it to them. Here's Romney, with his dog-shit problem. Santorum, with his santorum problem. Gingrich, with his verbal incontinence. They really are more similar than they think.

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