Newt Gingrich’s campaign has a new web video entitled “For the Dogs” that includes a clip from an interview in which Mitt Romney discussed tying the family dog, an Irish setter named Seamus, to the roof of his white Chevy station wagon while driving to Canada for a family vacation in 1983. Gingrich’s campaign has so far said that, while the video is currently only on the web, it might still consider airing it on TV in advance of the South Carolina primary on January 21.
A 2007 Boston Globe article says that at the start of that 12-hour trek from Boston to Ontario, Seamus was placed in a dog carrier outfitted with a windshield. Seamus must have felt some discomfort and defecated. Romney’s response when one of his sons notified him was a “tiny preview of a trait he would grow famous for in business: emotion-free crisis management.” More from the June 2007 Boston Globe:
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.
Speaking to Chris Wallace at Fox News, Romney described the carrier as a “completely airtight kennel” and said that Seamus was “comfortable” in it, to the point that “he climbed up there regularly, enjoyed himself. He was in a kennel at home a great deal of the time as well. We loved the dog.”
Seamus, who has passed away, cannot of course speak for himself. Two weeks after the Boston Globe article, Mitt Romney’s sister Jane provided a photo of the Irish setter with two cats and described him as a “social dog” who could be described as “Mr. Personality.” He had so many “dog friends” that he kept leaving the Romneys’ home and “ending up at the pound.” Some years after the infamous ride on the roof to Canada (which Jane said she did not know about until reading the Boston Globe‘s piece), Seamus was sent to live with her family in California, “so he could roam more freely.”
The incident has resurfaced, in Gingrich’s web video and elsewhere: One “Romney protester” in South Carolina recently tied a stuffed dog atop a dog carrier to the roof of his car, as seen in a photo by ABC’s Emily Friedman. New York Times columnist Gail Collins has routinely mentioned Romney’s puzzling treatment of Seamus in her columns for many months. Here’s an example from October 19, 2011, in Collins’ column entitled “Mitt and Begonia-gate“:
“And the idea that you stand here before us and talk about — that you’re strong on immigration is, on its face, the height of hypocrisy,” Perry declaimed.
I found this very exciting because it brings us closer to the moment when one of Romney’s competitors will point out that he once drove to Canada with the family dog strapped on the roof of the car.
And then Romney will say: “Hey, he was in a crate!” Or: “He liked the fresh air!” It’ll be too late. Everybody else will whip out pictures of their pets and stories about how the cat rides in her own special chair in the back seat, or how the family deferred a trip to Aruba because the whippet was sick.
The moment has indeed come, with Gingrich’s “For the Dogs” video. Appropriately enough, the video ends with the rival candidate singing “Who Let the Dogs Out?”
“Our definition of must-see TV,” says the Los Angeles Times. For myself, I’m cringing at the thought, but not as much as I did when I heard about Romney tying his dog to the roof of his car and driving from Massachusetts to Canada. As Collins says in her latest column, Gingrich’s video “basically asks whether America will elect a president who once drove to Canada with the family dog strapped to the roof of the car. Which is, of course, an excellent question.”
Is it too much to ask, Mitt, what were you thinking?
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Photo of an Irish setter (the same breed as Seamus) by xiaofeng17