If you have been following the news lately you are probably aware both President Obama and Mitt Romney are being hounded by personal dog stories. Most recently it came to light that as a child the President sampled dog meat when he lived in Indonesia. The incident is recorded in his book Dreams From My Father and apparently happened only once when he was 6-10 years old and was in the presence of an Indonesian adult he trusted.
Does this incident put the President’s love for dogs into question? Currently, the President has a dog named Bo, and there have never been any reports of abuse towards him. (Before any of these dog news stories emerged, my acquaintance visited the White House and happened to see Bo walking around in the halls and he appeared to be nothing less than a normal, healthy dog.) Nevertheless, the President’s childhood dog-eating incident is being played up by his opponents.
The dog-eating news has spread in response to the stories criticizing Mitt Romney for an incident in the early 1980s, when he placed the family dog Seamus in a dog carrier on the roof of a car for a family vacation. Most of these news stories depicted a fearful Seamus defecating in the carrier and on the car, because he reportedly was so uncomfortable. However, Ann Romney said recently the reason Seamus lost control of his bowels was that he stole a turkey from a kitchen counter before their trip and consequently had diarrhea during the journey. Her story challenges the claim that Seamus’ upset stomach was a result of being terrified in his carrier and the view Mitt’s behavior was simply cruel.
Many of the news reports criticizing Mitt Romney’s Seamus incident fail to mention that he also saved a dog’s life in 2003, when a wooden boat on Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire which was occupied by a family, started sinking. The Romneys were vacationing in the area and happened to see from the shore the people were in trouble on their sinking vessel, so the governor and his sons hopped on personal watercraft and zipped out to them. This story was reported in the New York Times, “The Romneys also saved the family’s dog, he said.” More importantly, Governor Romney and his two sons helped save several people who were on board a sinking boat. “Romney brought people to shore while his sons stood by at the scene.” (Source: New York Times) The sinking boat was about 300 yards from the shore of Lake Winnipesaukee, and the people on board had donned life vests and jumped in the water.
There hasn’t been much recent press at all describing this boat rescue, an event which took place just nine years ago, as compared to the reams of press dedicated to the car incident that happened 29 years ago.
For both Obama’s and Romney’s dog scenarios, there has been a rush to judgement, and too much finger pointing without complete information. Some of the misjudgments have been magnifying (making mountains out of molehills) and some have been selective filtering (choosing to see only certain details and overlooking others).
Then there is the idea that you can tell a lot about people by the way they treat animals. In this case, we don’t know how each candidate has treated all animals throughout their entire lives. We only know about these isolated incidents.
Additionally, both Obama and Romney are meat eaters, as are most Americans. If we used the treatment of animals as a gauge of character, all meat eaters might be considered “bad.” But most people wouldn’t agree with that assessment.
In the end, these dog news stories seem more like a mirror than a window, revealing our own biases. Do you think these incidents were blown out of proportion by the media? Are they irrelevant to the election or do they reveal something significant about Obama and Romney?
Image Credit: tanakawho, Wiki Commons